Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Montana Senators tell AG Holder to back off on gun control

from the Great Falls Tribune
Associated Press Writer
March 10, 2009

WASHINGTON — Democratic Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester have a message for the Obama administration: they will oppose any gun restrictions the new administration may be considering.

In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, the two Montana senators said the Justice Department should enforce existing laws rather than propose additional laws they said could infringe on Second Amendment rights.

"We oppose reinstating the ban on the sale of assault weapons, and we call on the Department of Justice to enforce existing laws before it considers imposing any new restrictions on gun ownership," Baucus and Tester wrote.

The senators said their letter was prompted by Holder's recent comment that reinstating a ban on the sale of assault weapons could help reduce bloodshed in Mexico, where 6,000 people were killed last year in drug-related violence.

A spokesman for Holder declined comment.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has said she plans to push legislation to reinstate a federal ban on some assault weapons that became law during the Clinton administration in 1994 but expired in 2004 under President Bush. Feinstein also has backed a plan to require gun shows to conduct background checks before selling firearms.

Barrett Kaiser, a spokesman for Baucus, said the senators sent the letter as a "pre-emptive strike" to warn the Obama administration that any effort to push new gun control will meet with resistance.

"If it even smells like gun control, rest assured that Max Baucus will be standing in the way," Kaiser said Wednesday.

Patrick Devlin, a spokesman for Tester, said Tester's opposition to gun control in "part of who he is as a Montana Democrat."

During last year's presidential campaign, Tester said that he had no qualms about backing Barack Obama for president, calling him an "ordinary person" who is no threat to gun owners.

"He told me flat out, 'I'm not taking your guns away and don't let anybody tell you that I will," Tester said last August, referring to Obama. "This guy is not going to take away your guns."

Devlin said Tester still believes that, but wanted to make it clear that he and Baucus oppose any new gun control efforts.

"It doesn't matter to him whether it's a Democratic or Republican administration or independent or vegetarian," Devlin said. Tester "is expressing along with his Montana colleagues: as far as they're concerned (gun control legislation) is a nonstarter."

A joint news release from the two senators quotes Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock, a Democrat, as applauding the stand taken by Baucus and Tester.

"Max and Jon are exactly right — we need to be enforcing the laws that we have on the books," Bullock says in the statement. "These one-size-fits-all gun laws might be popular in some parts of the country, but they don't work for Montana."

Gov. Brian Schweitzer said he also agreed with the letter. He was confident that any gun control bill would be easily defeated.

"I think I have heard from enough Democrats and Republicans in Congress — that dog won't hunt," he said.
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