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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Republicans confident firearms issue will boost support for Kilgore; B1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

A U.S. Senate bill designed to protect gun manufacturers from some types of lawsuits would not be necessary if fewer elected officials were like Democratic Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine.

That was the upshot of a conference call with three Republican delegates put together by the gubernatorial campaign of former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore on Friday.

S. 397 would prohibit lawsuits against gun manufacturers or dealers stemming from the misuse of their products. But the Senate would not have to bother with such measures if local officials would not try to use the courts to attack the Second Amendment, said Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh.

“When he was the mayor of Richmond, Tim Kaine asked the city attorney for a legal opinion … to discern whether Richmond” could sue gun manufacturers.

Virginia law precluded such an action.

Even asking about the possibility of suing gun manufacturers is proof that Kaine is out of touch with Virginia voters, said Del. Chris Saxman, R-Staunton.

“This is one of our sacred values,” Saxman said. “To have these companies held liable for the activities of criminals is insane.”
Voters aren’t likely to forget that Kaine paid to send people to the Million Mom March in Washington in 2000, the delegates said. The rally was held to support stronger gun control laws.

Kaine later backed away from his support of the march, and told a radio talk show that he would like to have the support of both the gun rights and gun control lobbies.

Delacey Skinner, Kaine’s press secretary, has said repeatedly that the Democratic contender has the same position as Gov. Mark R. Warner and would not support any new gun laws.

That rings hollow, according to GOP delegates.

“It would appear that Mr. Kaine is desperately trying to play both sides of the issue,” said Del. Robert Hurt, R-Chatham.
“He wants to be for gun rights and then he wants to be against them,” Hurt said. Kaine “looks like he’ll just say anything to get elected.”

Residents of rural Virginia “take very much pride in the fact that they’re able to own” and use firearms.
“I think it really is a defining issue,” he said. “Where [Kilgore] is coming from is exactly where the people in Southside are coming from.”

The right to keep and bear arms enshrined in the Second Amendment is “no less important now than it was” when the framers of the Constitution drafted it, Hurt said.

For that reason, he said, gun issues will bring voters over to Kilgore’s camp.

But the latest round of polling by Mason-Dixon Research found that voters don’t consider gun issues to be very important in this year’s election. Only 1 percent of those surveyed earlier this month said guns were foremost on their minds.
Issues like education funding (21 percent) and state taxes (17 percent) were far more important to voters, the poll said.

It’s not about guns, according to the Kaine campaign. It’s about avoiding uncomfortable questions about taxes and spending.

“The truth is, while Tim Kaine holds town hall meetings across Southwest Virginia this weekend to talk about education, jobs and moving Virginia forward, Jerry Kilgore is trying to change the subject by making things up about Tim Kaine’s record,” the campaign said in an e-mail to reporters issued just minutes after the Kilgore campaign’s conference call.

Some 57 percent of those polled said they are in favor of the 2004 tax package, which Kilgore and the balance of the GOP ticket opposed.

Election Day is Nov. 8.