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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 10/ 5/2007

Giuliani's "Twists and Turns" on Guns

By Michael Dobbs
[Photo of Rudy Giuliani

Rudy Giuliani on lawsuit that he filed against American gun manufacturers while Mayor of New York, addressing the National Rifle Association, September 21, 2007:

"I did initiate that lawsuit back in 2000. Since then, I think that lawsuit has taken several turns and several twists that I don't agree with. I also think that there have been subsequent intervening events, September 11th, which cast a different light on the Second Amendment and Second Amendment rights."

The Facts

Does Giuliani's explanation for his change of heart on his own lawsuit stand up or is he simply pandering to the Republican base?

The former New York mayor and Republican presidential candidate has dismayed his erstwhile supporters in the gun control lobby by distancing himself from the lawsuit he filed on behalf of New York City against some of America's leading gun manufacturers. The June 2000 lawsuit seeks tens of millions of dollars from companies like Smith & Wesson, Colt, and Beretta USA for "unsafe" design of weapons and allowing guns to end up in the hands of criminals.

Giuliani's "twists and turns" explanation does not satisfy his successor as mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, who insists that the case has "not changed at all" over the last seven years. Adjudication of the lawsuit by the U.S. District Court for New York has been delayed following the passage of legislation by Congress that made it more difficult to use gun trace data in civil court.

Giuliani has also drawn fire from his "co-counsel" on the 2000 lawsuit, the Brady Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, a leading gun control body. "From our perspective, this shows a serious lack of backbone by the former mayor," said Dennis Henigan, the director of the Brady Center's Legal Action Project, which provided pro bono legal advice to Giuliani and his fellow plaintiffs.

"It's a rather egregious example of pandering to a special interest that has enormous influence in the Republican party," said Henigan. "Giuliani seems to have turned his back on everything he said earlier about the need for a strong national gun policy."

Henigan also expressed skepticism about Giuliani's claim that his change of heart on the lawsuit was somehow linked to the September 2001 terrorist attacks. "That's an obvious non-sequitur. It seems far-fetched that we should have weaker federal gun laws because of 9/11. We should be trying to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and terrorists."

As mayor of New York, Giuliani was one of the strongest advocates in the country for tighter gun control measures. In a 1995 interview with Charlie Rose, he compared the NRA to "extremists" and described the organization's "defense of assault weapons" as "a terrible, terrible mistake." See video here. Two years later, after a Palestinian opened fire on tourists at the top of the Empire State Building, Giuliani called for tighter gun control laws. He said it was "insane" that the gunman, Ali Abu Kamal, had been able to walk into a gun shop in Florida and buy a Beretta. He continued to speak out in favor of gun control legislation years after 9/11.

The Giuliani campaign declines to detail the "twists" and "turns" in the lawsuit that triggered the mayor's concern. "We're not going to get into it," said campaign spokeswoman Maria Comella. "I will let him speak for himself."

In an interview with the Associated Press last week, Giuliani complained that the lawsuit had "moved in the direction of trying to get a lot of information about the tracing of guns." He said his thinking had been influenced by a March 2007 federal appeals court decision that overturned a 30-year-old ban on private ownership of handguns in Washington D.C.

According to Henigan, the lawsuit against the gun manufacturers always relied on gun trace data. The data has been sealed for court use only.

The gun lobby appears unenthusiastic about its new convert. NRA spokesman Andrew Arulandam declined to answer a question about Giuliani's sincerity, saying it was "too soon" to talk about individual candidates. He said that an NRA decision to endorse a candidate will be made on the basis of what the candidates "are saying today" as well as their past record.

Giuliani has never received a formal NRA rating, as the association does not take a position on mayoral races. The NRA has given its top A plus rating to Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. Mitt Romney, who recently described himself as a lifetime hunter despite never owning a gun license, scored a B as governor of Massachusetts. John McCain received As until he sought to regulate gun shows and championed campaign finance reform, when he slipped to a C.

On the Democratic side, the NRA loves Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico, giving him a sterling A rating. Its least favorite candidate is Hillary Clinton, the recipient of a perfect F for opposing every single piece of NRA-favored legislation on which she has cast a vote as senator.

The Pinocchio Test

In the absence of comment from the Giuliani campaign, this case seems fairly clear-cut. As we have previously noted, we do not monitor candidates for flip-flops, but we do check them for honesty. Giuliani's own explanation for the twists and turns in his position on gun control is unconvincing.

It seems much more likely that Giuliani distanced himself from his own lawsuit for essentially political reasons, to win support from Republican primary voters and neutralize opposition to his candidacy from the NRA.

(About our rating scale.)

By Michael Dobbs  | October 5, 2007; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  3 Pinocchios, Candidate Record, Candidate Watch, Social Issues  
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Comments

Gun control is certainly a MUST in NYC.

In Tennessee you must leave your gun in your truck if you go into a bar or a Gov't installation. Otherwise you can take it into your office if it's not posted that you cannot. I sit in NYC and had to have the landlord post it when 2 employees in our Tennessee office threatened each other. Pardon my ignorance if I didn't know offices allowed guns or that people kept them in or on their desks.

You can get licenses at toll booths. As you know you can simply buy guns elsewhere. The diversity in gun control, or lack thereof, may be reviewed on the web.

Guns serve a legal and valid purpose. On the other hand guns may often be viewed as 'illegal aliens'.

In this case we need to have a consistent set of laws for the USA and yes, I think a set could be developed.

Posted by: American Girl | October 6, 2007 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Licenses at toll booths? LOL, that's a good one. Ignorance is too strong a term. Maybe unaware is better label.

Posted by: K-Romulus | October 9, 2007 11:43 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: Lora House | October 18, 2007 1:54 PM | Report abuse

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