Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, one of the better marksmen and most consistent votes against gun-control laws in Congress, has received more campaign funds from the National Rifle Association than all but one House member during the past decade, according to a recent study.
Cunningham, R-Escondido, has accepted a total of $44,600 from the group’s political action committee in his five congressional campaigns, according to the analysis by Common Cause, a campaign-finance reform group. Only Rep. Don Young, an Alaska Republican, received more NRA money during that period.
An avid hunter and an NRA member before his selection to Congress, Cunningham has consistently received “A” ratings and strong endorsements from the group, beginning with his successful 1990 race against a gun-control supporter, four-term Democrat Jim Bates. He is a former chairman of both the House Hunting Caucus and the House Sportsmen’s Caucus, and he boasted yesterday that he finished as the overall champion last weekend at the annual “Republican vs. Democrat Shoot-Out” held at a skeet and trap range in Virginia.
Handgun Control Inc., a leading lobby for gun-control measures in Washington, reports that Cunningham failed to support its position on all 11 of the key gun-control votes cast during his tenure in Congress. “He’s terrible on our issue,” said Handgun Control spokesman David Bernstein.
Cunningham said he was at a loss to explain why he ranks so high on the NRA contribution lists, aside from the fact that “I take money from any legal source.”
“They know that I’m very outspoken about Second Amendment rights and have been since I was young,” Cunningham said. “But the same time, I think I support reasonable restrictions.”
For example, Cunningham said, he would support legislation that bans assault weapons if the law could be written in such a way that would not apply to other firearms.
“There’s no reason for anybody owning a fully automatic weapon,” he said. Cunningham voted against the federal assault weapons ban that passed Congress by two votes in May 1994. He was recorded as absent in March 1996 when the law was repealed by the House on a 239-173 vote.
Cunningham also said he would support legislation, reportedly being prepared for introduction later this month by the Clinton administration, that would extend the Brady Bill by making it illegal for those convicted of violent crimes as juveniles to possess guns.
“I heard the president the other day talking about where someone who is 18 shouldn’t even be able to buy a gun. I might go along with that. . . . In many cases, that’s too young,” Cunningham said.
Moreover, Cunningham is at odds with the NRA over legislation he introduced last year that would allow law-enforcement personnel to continue to carry concealed weapons after they retire. The NRA is trying to amend the bill so it applies to a wider class of people, he said. “They say they won’t support my bill unless they hook their rider onto it, which I think would cause the bill to go down,” he said. “I told them no.”
Cunningham said he is unsure that any new legislation could have prevented the high school shootings in Littleton, Colo., last month, aside from vigorous enforcement of laws prohibiting the sale of firearms to teens. He said the solution to youth violence “boils down to . . . a whole bunch of things,” including proper parenting that includes religious training and the installation of values in children.
Copyright © 1999
Union-Tribune Publishing Co.