Sunday, May 23, 1999

Ad points up Sen. Bunning's support from gun lobby

Contributions close to $200,000

The Associated Press

        LOUISVILLE — A campaign-finance reform group has taken out a full-page advertisement claiming that Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning ranks first among the Senate's friends of the pro-gun lobby.

        Public Campaign's ad, which ran in Friday's editions of the New York Times, says that Mr. Bunning has received more from the gun lobby than anyone else — $197,175 since 1991.

        The information in the ad was provided by the Center for Responsive Politics.

        “The overwhelming majority of Americans — even the majority of gun owners — want stricter gun laws,” the ad said.

        “Yet our elected representatives continue to ignore the will of the people, and it's apparent why. So long as politicians must rely on special interest money, guns will be too easy to get — and powerful campaign contributors (will) dominate our democracy.”

        Dave York, Mr. Bunning's chief of staff, said the National Rifle Association contributed the maximum of $10,000 to the Bunning campaign; but, beyond that, Mr. Bunning doesn't know how much of his funding came from gun interests.

        “We raised $4.6 million, so the contributions from the NRA come to about two-tenths of 1 percent of our total,” Mr. York said. “I don't suppose that would be enough to affect his vote.”

        According to Ellen Miller, Public Campaign's executive director, gun manufacturers such as Smith & Wesson have their own political-action committees that contributed to the Bunning campaign.

        “When you get as much money as Jim Bunning does, and you vote the way he does, how could you not suspect there's a relationship?” Ms. Miller asked.

        Gun-control advocates also say they are alarmed at Mr. Bunning's vote along with 25 other senators last week against the juvenile-crime bill, with its several gun-control provisions.

        Mr. Bunning opposed an amendment to require back ground checks on everyone purchasing a gun at a gun show or pawn shop. He voted against another amendment requiring gun locks to be included in all handgun sales.

        “You would think that especially (the 1997 Heath High School shootings near) Paducah would be in the mind of Jim Bunning to vote for these common-sense approaches,” said David Bernstein, spokesman for Handgun Control, the nation's largest gun-control organization.

        Kentucky's other senator, Republican Mitch McConnell, voted for both gun-control measures. He opposed the mandatory check that the Senate narrowly passed, but voted for passage of the entire bill.

        According to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, McConnell received no independent expenditures on his behalf from the gun lobby and collected a little over $10,000 in contributions from gun groups between 1993 and 1998.

        Mr. York said Mr. Bunning has been a staunch defender of gun owners' rights but said he also supports “responsible restrictions on guns to enhance public safety.”


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