|June 21, 2001, 12:53 PM||#1|
Join Date: October 26, 2000
Location: Moscow on the Colorado, TX
(NJ) Concealed weapons issue splits Schundler, Franks
Concealed weapons issue splits Schundler, Franks
Wednesday, June 20, 2001
This is the third in a series examining the Republican gubernatorial candidates' positions on key issues. Thursday: Taxes
By WENDY RUDERMAN
Marilyn Lapidus says she wants the right to carry her .38-caliber Ruger handgun in her purse, especially when she's out shopping at the mall.
For Debra Wachspress, the very thought of New Jersey residents toting weapons around like lipstick gives her "the creeps."
Lapidus, a 47-year-old Morris County mother of two teenage boys, says the U.S. Constitution gives her the right to carry a firearm in her purse or glove compartment for protection, but it's illegal, with some exceptions, in this state.
That's the main reason Lapidus and other members of the Second Amendment Sisters prefer gubernatorial candidate Bret Schundler over Bob Franks in the June 26 Republican primary.
"Personally, I like the man," Lapidus said. "He's far more friendly on the gun issue than Franks."
Lapidus said at least Schundler is willing to sign a law allowing her to carry a concealed weapon.
Wachspress, statewide coordinator of the Million Mom March, says her Republican members, if they're doing their homework, will vote for Franks.
"They are absolutely not going to vote for Schundler," said Wachspress, 35, a mother of two toddlers. "Schundler is 100 percent NRA."
Schundler, who is supported by the National Rifle Association, paints himself as guardian of legal gun owners.
Franks, who's quick to point out that he accepted only $800 from the NRA in his entire political career, wants to be seen as champion of gun safety. He proudly parades his "yes" vote on the Brady Bill, the law requiring a waiting period for handgun purchases.
Schundler accuses the former congressman of whittling away gun owners' rights. Franks thinks Schundler's belief that all law-abiding citizens should be allowed to carry concealed weapons is "dangerous" in the nation's most densely populated state.
Schundler repeatedly tries to politically shish kebab Franks for missing a vote as an assemblyman in 1990 on a bill banning assault weapons.
"When the assault-weapons ban came up for a vote, he took a walk," Schundler said. "Clearly he is not a profile in courage."
Franks said he opposed the bill, pushed by Gov. Jim Florio, because it failed to grandfather, or exempt, guns bought legally by citizens prior to the ban. The bill outlawed the sale and possession of an "assault weapon," such as a semi-automatic able to fire 16 rounds or more.
"I viewed the Florio gun ban as an illegal confiscation of private property," Franks said.
But Franks said he didn't vote against it because he wanted to avoid an "impression" that he supported "the open circulation" of assault weapons.
When Republicans posted a bill to repeal the assault-weapons ban in 1992, Franks also skipped the vote.
As a congressman, Franks voted in 1994 for a federal assault-weapons ban, but it was weaker than New Jersey's because it did not outlaw possession if the gun was purchased legally prior to the bill's passage.
Yet as the two Republican candidates talked about guns a few days before the primary, they sounded surprisingly in sync.
Neither owns a gun or likes to hunt, yet both say they're firm believers in the right to bear arms. Both highlight the state's stringent gun laws and say the state doesn't need more on the books.
As it is, New Jersey residents looking to buy a gun must pass two police background checks and wait months for clearance.
"I think New Jersey's law is a very strong measure," Franks said. "One that appropriately balances the right of law-abiding citizens to possess firearms while seeking to impose reasonable control aimed at keeping our children and our families safe."
Both Schundler and Franks support giving taxpayers' money toward the research and development of a handgun that can be fired only by authorized users. Yet neither would consider mandating a so-called "smart gun" before one hits the market, they say.
The Senate voted last year to pass a bill requiring all handguns sold to have technology, like fingerprint recognition, within three years after a reliable childproof handgun hits the U.S. market. The bill stalled in the Assembly.
Franks said he would not sign such a bill until the technology is real and reliable -- a stance that is certain to anger the ranks of the Million Mom March.
Schundler, who opposes the bill, said even if the technology is tried and true, if it's expensive and doesn't fit all guns, a mandate would come "pretty darn close to overturning the Second Amendment."
The candidates diverge, however, when the subject turns to concealed weapons.
Schundler believes criminals in states with right-to-carry laws are less likely to target citizens for fear they have a gun.
More than 30 states, including Pennsylvania, have right-to-carry laws. New Jersey citizens are prohibited from carrying concealed weapons unless they convince a judge of a "justifiable need." A bill making it easier for residents to carry handguns has long languished in the Legislature with little public support.
If a right-to-carry bill passed both houses, Schundler says he'd sign it into law. He concedes passage is unlikely in a state where most citizens think the Second Amendment should take a back seat to gun control. He stops short of saying he'll lobby for the bill as governor.
"It reduces violence," Schundler said. "If you can make society safer and reduce violent crime, that's a good thing."