McCain Ad Promotes Gun Show Checks

Thursday, October 5th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Gun control proponents say the campaign for background checks at gun shows is on the right track now that Sen. John McCain has begun delivering the message.

In television ads for the measures in Oregon and Colorado, the Arizona Republican says that because of a legal loophole felons have bought and sold thousands of guns at shows.

``Many were later used in crimes,'' McCain says. ``That's wrong.''

Airtime in both states for the 30-second spot has exceeded $1 million, paid by billionaire marketing mogul Andrew J. McKelvey, founder of Americans for Gun Safety. The ads began appearing Wednesday.

McKelvey, a Republican, recruited McCain to break a stereotype of gun-control advocates as liberal Democrats, The New York Times reported Thursday.

According to Gun Safety president Jonathan J. Cowan: ``Colorado and Oregon are ground zero in the gun-safety debate.''

Oregon's Measure 5 and Colorado's Amendment 22 — to be decided Nov. 7 — propose background checks.

Currently, background checks are performed on those buying guns from federally licensed dealers. Private traders are not screened.

``I do believe my view has evolved,'' McCain said. He credited his change of heart to mass shootings like at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, when 12 students and a teacher were killed and 23 others were hurt by two teen gunmen who then committed suicide. Three of the four weapons used in the assault were bought at a gun show by an 18-year-old friend of the two killers.

Sen. Ginny Burdick, a Portland Democrat, said McCain's appearance will help characterize Measure 5 as common sense backed by all, including gun owners.

John Hellen, a lobbyist for Oregon Gun Owners, said it will do little to reduce gun violence as promised. He recommends stiffer penalties for armed crimes.

Oregon Gun Owners is running an intensive, statewide radio ad campaign targeting conservative Democrats and independents concerned about privacy and government intrusion.

The National Rifle Association has spent $75,000 opposing Colorado's amendment 22.