Bush Vs. Kerry

untitled image 3253

Outdoor Life Online Editor

In many respects it is difficult to imagine two candidates less alike than President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry. Even geographically, the contrast between their respective hometowns-the hardscrabble environs of Midland, Tex., and the historical elegance of Boston, Mass.-is extreme. Politically as well, the two candidates have different views on a host of issues. But when it comes to the sportsmen's vote, these two men want your support and they want it badly. Here, in their own words, Bush and Kerry, both self-described sportsmen, answer key questions on gun rights, conservation, public-land access and other issues that will affect your ability to fish and hunt and enjoy the outdoor traditions you hold so dear.

**Outdoor Life: Why should a voter who is interested in hunting and/or fishing issues vote for you? **

George Bush: As a fisherman and hunter, I am committed to protecting our water and public lands so that future generations will be able to enjoy our environment. I have also taken a firm stand to protect the rights of responsible gun owners, and will ensure maintenance of and continued access to our public lands so men and women who hunt and fish can participate in recreational activities. In fact, under my direction, the federal government opened over 50 of our nation's wildlife refuges to hunting. This policy decision opens up recreational opportunities to millions of Americans. In 2003 the Justice Department prosecuted over 13,000 offenders for federal firearms crimes, the highest figure on record for a single year. My record on these issues is clear.

John Kerry: As a lifelong hunter and fisherman, I am proud to be among the millions of American sportsmen and sportswomen who are dedicated to conserving fish and wildlife and passing along the American hunting and fishing traditions to the next generation.

When I was growing up, hunting and fishing taught me about the importance of clean water, abundant fish and wildlife habitat and sound natural resource management. I also have become increasingly aware that we need to take greater steps to ensure that the public always has access to places to hunt and fish. Finally, it does not do much good to have well-managed and abundant wildlife and great places to hunt if you can't own and use a rifle or a shotgun.

During my time in public service, I have always supported all the elements necessary for successful hunting and fishing. As President, I will continue to support funding for federal and state fish-and-game managers, seek ways to expand access to places for the public to hunt and fish, and protect the rights of law-biding Americans to buy and use rifles and shotguns, so that the future of hunting and fishing in America is assured.

[pagebreak] OL: Do you support a renewal of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, a bill that outlawed certain models of semi-automatic firearms? Why or why not?

Bush: The best way to reduce gun crime is to vigorously enforce existing gun laws, so that guns are kept out of the hands of criminals but are not denied to responsible and law-abiding citizens. I support reauthorization of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, but I oppose additions to or expansion of the ban.

My administration has proven that enforcing existing gun laws is a highly effective strategy of combating violent crime. My administration has devoted over $1 billion, since 2001, to Project Safe Neighborhoods, my initiative for enforcing existing gun laws, and has succeeded in increasing the rate of gun crime prosecutions by 68 percent during the last three years. At the same time, the violent crime victimization rate has dropped by 21 percent.

Kerry: Yes, I support extending the assault weapons ban. The weapons that are the subject of this ban are not used for hunting, and extending this ban will not infringe on the rights ofny Americans to hunt, including those who hunt with semi-automatic shotguns. It will, however, help police deal with the violence that we are witnessing in too many American cities. Today, one in five law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty is killed with an assault weapon. Innocent citizens continue to be caught in automatic weapon crossfire on city streets. Simply put, I stand with the police officers who have called for extending the ban. Police officers who put their lives on the line every day should not be outgunned by the criminals they are seeking to stop.

OL: In your view, does the Second Amendment protect the individual's right to own firearms? Why or why not?

**Bush: **I firmly believe in the right of an individual to bear arms, as granted by the Second Amendment. My administration filed a brief in the Supreme Court asserting that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own firearms and is not limited to protecting state militias.

Noted in a recent court decision, "the history of the Second Amendment reinforces the plain meaning of its text, namely that it protects individual Americans in their right to keep and bear arms whether or not they are a member of a select militia or performing active military service or training." This same conclusion has been reaffirmed by numerous legal scholars from across the ideological spectrum.

Kerry: Yes. As a hunter and a gun owner, I believe that law-abiding American adults have the right to own firearms. As President, I will defend the Second Amendment right of law-abiding American adults to own firearms.

[pagebreak] OL: Do you think firearms manufacturers should be responsible for the criminal misuse of their products?

Bush: I do not believe that manufacturers or distributors of legal and non-defective products should be held liable for the criminal or unlawful misuse of their product by others. If we hold entire industries responsible for the illegal actions of a few, we risk the confidence of Americans in our laws and we diminish our basic constitutional liberties. Unnecessary lawsuits are also an abuse of the legal system. They set a poor precedent for other lawful industries, cost millions of taxpayer dollars in legal fees, and result in job loss and burdens to interstate and foreign commerce.

My administration strongly supported the passage of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which would have prevented frivolous litigation against gun manufacturers and protected the thousands of workers employed by gun manufacturers and in related businesses. This legislation struck a good balance, reducing frivolous lawsuits while carefully preserving the right of individuals to have their day in court with civil liability actions. The Senate failed to pass this bill, but I will continue to support this legislation in the future.

Kerry: In cases where firearms are criminally misused, the blame should be placed on the person perpetrating the crime. However, in the few cases where it is clear that a gun dealer is consistently selling guns to criminals, gun manufacturers should exercise common sense and stop supplying those dealers. For example, 1.2 percent of licensed gun dealers supply 57 percent of the firearms recovered from criminals. In such cases, if a gun manufacturer knows that this dealer is supplying criminals and yet continues to sell guns to the dealer, then it is fair to hold the manufacturer accountable for this behavior, which is endangering public safety.

**OL: Are you in favor of the Freedom to Fish Act, a bill that would prevent agencies from closing waters to fishermen unless state or federal fisheries biologists find it to be necessary? Why or why not? **

Bush: My administration has not taken a position on that particular bill, but I strongly support continued access for recreational fishers, and my administration will work with this Congress to protect this appropriate access. Recreational fishers support thousands of American jobs and generate millions of dollars that go directly back to protecting and conserving resources at the local level. We must also protect and maintain those resources for future generations.

Kerry: I support many of the concepts in the Freedom to Fish Act, but I think it is too restrictive in some respects. The decision to close parts of the ocean to fishing has economic and recreational implications and should not be limited only to the views of state and federal biologists. Recreational fishermen and the general public should have a say in these decisions as well.

In general, I do not support closing waters to fishermen unless such closures would lead to overall improvements in the health of the fishery and thus expand long-term opportunities for fishermen to practice their sport. It is clear that some stocks have been over-fished and need help. Closures are one tool that should be available to fishery managers. In my view, however, this tool should be used rarely, since it necessarily shuts out the public for some length of time. Closures also should be limited in size to the minimum area necessary to achieve the fishery management goal. These areas should be constantly monitored to determine if and when fishing access can be restored. The overall goal of closures should be to provide the best long-term experience possible for the fisherman.

[pagebreak] **OL: Do you believe that hunting is a viable and practical means of managing wildlife populations? **

**Bush: **Yes. Hunting is one of several viable and practicable means of managing wildlife. For example, resident Canada goose populations have caused millions of dollars in damage to habitats, crops and vegetation. Many states have addressed these issues through special hunting seasons for various wildlife populations, and I support the rights of states to make the decisions that best meet their needs.

**Kerry: **Hunting is a very viable and practical means of controlling wildlife populations. It is used extensively by professional wildlife managers in state game-and-fish agencies to achieve ideal population levels and minimize human-wildlife conflicts. It is one of the main reasons why the decline in active hunters is so troubling.

**OL: Do you hunt? **

Bush: I do hunt and I enjoy it very much. In fact, I spent New Year's Day hunting quail with my dad, some friends and cabinet members in southern Texas.

**Kerry: **Yes. I started hunting and shooting with my family when I was 12 years old. It taught me responsibility and respect for the outdoors. As President I will make conservation of the outdoors and preservation of hunters' rigss for recreational fishers, and my administration will work with this Congress to protect this appropriate access. Recreational fishers support thousands of American jobs and generate millions of dollars that go directly back to protecting and conserving resources at the local level. We must also protect and maintain those resources for future generations.

Kerry: I support many of the concepts in the Freedom to Fish Act, but I think it is too restrictive in some respects. The decision to close parts of the ocean to fishing has economic and recreational implications and should not be limited only to the views of state and federal biologists. Recreational fishermen and the general public should have a say in these decisions as well.

In general, I do not support closing waters to fishermen unless such closures would lead to overall improvements in the health of the fishery and thus expand long-term opportunities for fishermen to practice their sport. It is clear that some stocks have been over-fished and need help. Closures are one tool that should be available to fishery managers. In my view, however, this tool should be used rarely, since it necessarily shuts out the public for some length of time. Closures also should be limited in size to the minimum area necessary to achieve the fishery management goal. These areas should be constantly monitored to determine if and when fishing access can be restored. The overall goal of closures should be to provide the best long-term experience possible for the fisherman.

[pagebreak] **OL: Do you believe that hunting is a viable and practical means of managing wildlife populations? **

**Bush: **Yes. Hunting is one of several viable and practicable means of managing wildlife. For example, resident Canada goose populations have caused millions of dollars in damage to habitats, crops and vegetation. Many states have addressed these issues through special hunting seasons for various wildlife populations, and I support the rights of states to make the decisions that best meet their needs.

**Kerry: **Hunting is a very viable and practical means of controlling wildlife populations. It is used extensively by professional wildlife managers in state game-and-fish agencies to achieve ideal population levels and minimize human-wildlife conflicts. It is one of the main reasons why the decline in active hunters is so troubling.

**OL: Do you hunt? **

Bush: I do hunt and I enjoy it very much. In fact, I spent New Year's Day hunting quail with my dad, some friends and cabinet members in southern Texas.

**Kerry: **Yes. I started hunting and shooting with my family when I was 12 years old. It taught me responsibility and respect for the outdoors. As President I will make conservation of the outdoors and preservation of hunters' rig