In Magazine Interview, Kerry Says He Owns Assault Rifle
September 27, 2004
Senator John Kerry, a hunter who supported the recently expired assault weapons ban, frequently tells audiences he has never met anyone who wanted to use an AK-47 to shoot a deer. But it is not clear what Mr. Kerry does with the Chinese assault rifle he told Outdoor Life magazine he kept in his personal collection.
In interviews appearing in the October issue of Outdoor Life, Mr. Kerry and President Bush were asked whether they were gun owners, and, if so, to identify their favorite gun.
Mr. Bush named the Weatherby 20 gauge (although he gave a slightly different answer in a separate chat with Field and Stream magazine.) Mr. Kerry's answer was more complicated.
"My favorite gun is the M-16 that saved my life and that of my crew in Vietnam," Mr. Kerry told the magazine. "I don't own one of those now, but one of my reminders of my service is a Communist Chinese assault rifle."
Mr. Kerry's campaign would not say what model rifle Mr. Kerry was referring to, where he got it and when, or how many guns he owned. A spokesman for the senator, Michael Meehan, said Mr. Kerry was a registered gun owner in Massachusetts. On Thursday morning, Mr. Meehan said he had not been able to ask Mr. Kerry about the rifle because of Mr. Kerry's hoarse voice; he did not respond to further inquiries.
Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association -- which has given Mr. Kerry "F" ratings throughout his career and backs Mr. Bush's re-election -- said the Outdoor Life comment made Mr. Kerry's support of the assault weapons ban disingenuous.
"It's O.K. for John Kerry to own these kinds of firearms, but it's not O.K. for John Q. Public?" Mr. Arulanandam said, noting that if Mr. Kerry brought the gun home from the war as a souvenir he could be subject to court-martial. "He certainly owes people an explanation as to why there's a double standard."
Stephen P. Halbrook, a gun rights lawyer who has argued several cases before the Supreme Court, said the most common Chinese assault rifles, known as SKS clones, were not among the 19 models banned under the 1994 law. But some SKS's have magazines holding more than 10 rounds, which violates a Massachusetts law against large-capacity weapons, Mr. Halbrook said. If the gun is fully automatic, Mr. Halbrook said, it is illegal in Massachusetts and would require a federal permit if Mr. Kerry kept it at one of his homes in Pennsylvania and Idaho.
Such permits are not public records.
Bob Ricker, a former N.R.A. lawyer who is now a consultant for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said he was not worried by Mr. Kerry's answer because "he knows a lot about firearms and he's also one of the most credible individuals when it comes to talking about gun-violence prevention and what it takes to keep weapons of war off the street."
Mr. Bush does not have such high-powered weapons but seems unable to pick a consistent favorite. To Field and Stream, he said, "My favorite gun is the first gun that my dad gave me, which is a Winchester .22 pump, Model 61."
He also mentioned the Weatherby he chose for Outdoor Life, saying that it was a "custom-made gun presented to me by the C.E.O. of the company, Mr. Weatherby." Mr. Bush said he had "six or seven guns" in his office safe, including two .22's, deer rifles and a .243-caliber "varmint" rifle.
"Given to me by the former lieutenant governor of Texas, Bob Bullock, my old buddy," Mr. Bush explained of the .243-caliber rifle, "who on his deathbed said, 'I want to give you a gun."'