Bill Richardson on Gun Control
Democratic Governor (NM); Secretary of Commerce-Designee
A: The issue here, I believe, is instant background checks. Nobody who has a criminal background or is mentally ill should be able to get a weapon. That is the key, and that includes gun sales. That includes gun sales at gun shows. The key is going to be also attacking poverty, dealing with those kids in the ghettos that are heavy users of gun violence and that are victims of gun violence, to make sure that this country attacks the core problems of poverty.
A: I believe the key to reducing gun violence, which is a scourge in our cities and all over America, is to have strong instant background checks, to keep guns away from those that shouldn’t have them, those with criminal backgrounds, those that have mentally ill problems. But the key in eliminating gun violence is eliminating poverty, eliminating hate. What I would do as president is I would dramatically increase the minimum wage. I would expand child care. I would expand the earned income tax credit. I would have programs in this country to deal with those that are incarcerated, rehabilitation, treatment, education. Gun violence is a scourge, but we have to attack the core and that is poverty.
A: The crime bill, which put 100,000 cops on the street, took some of those initiatives. But I’m a gun owner & I’m a western governor. I believe the issue is not gun control. The issue is instant background checks.
Q: Why do hunters need Street Sweepers or Uzi machine guns?
A: The assault weapons ban did not work.
Q: As president, would you seek to ban assault weapons?
A: It didn’t work. What I would do is I would focus more of our efforts on, for instance, background checks with those with criminal backgrounds and the mentally ill. We have to tighten up those background checks. The problem is the states don’t have the database & the resources.
A: Yes, I would. I’m a gun owner. I am for reasonable controls --I don’t want to see Uzis when you’re hunting, obviously.
Q: But you wouldn’t ban them.
A: I’m a western governor. It’s a cultural issue. I am for strong law enforcement [but not a ban].
Q: Being the NRA’s man is not going to be popular in some Democratic primaries.
A: Gun control shouldn’t be a litmus test in the Democratic Party. I don’t change my positions to run for president.
Q: Well, you did on assault weapons [having voted for the assault weapon ban and then later for its repeal].
A: But that was a vote as part of an overall bill that President Clinton proposed [the assault weapon ban was part of a larger crime bill].
A: The first point I’d want to make is my sincerest condolences to the families of those loved ones that perished. It was an unspeakable tragedy. You’re right; I’m a Westerner. The 2nd Amendment is precious in the West. But I want to just state for the record, a vast majority of gun owners are law-abiding. This is an issue that deals with two fundamental problems in our system. The first is mental illness. We should ensure that all federal and state initiatives deal with making sure those with mental illnesses cannot get a gun. We should find ways to ensure that our schools get the help that they need to detect these mentally ill patients. Secondly, I’m for instant background checks. We have to make sure states are properly funded to be able to detect those problems.
As Richardson noted, he’s not the first Democrat to receive an NRA endorsement. “But there haven’t been very many,” he said. The NRA endorsement wasn’t the first time Richardson has garnered the group’s backing. “He’s been a pretty solid guy on the gun issue,” a member of the NRA’s board of directors said.
Whether that record could woo pro-Second Amendment voters into the Democratic fold in a national election is another question. The NRA endorsement cites Richardson’s support for a law that allows New Mexico residents to carry concealed handguns with a permit. Richardson said he has earned a concealed-carry permit himself.
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