Denver Rocky Mountain News
Sunday, August 13, 2000

Michael Romano News Washington Bureau

Democrat Ken Toltz has renewed his allegation that Rep. Tom Tancredo broke his word to voters by accepting campaign contributions from pro-gun groups. But Dave Pearson, Tancredo's campaign manager, dismissed the accusation, similar to one lodged last year by Toltz, calling it a ``warmed-over, half-baked attack from a campaign that's (intellectually) bankrupt.''

The angry charges and political rhetoric have become fairly commonplace in the battle for the 6th Congressional District, which is the only competitive race among the six House seats on the November ballot. One recent fund-raising letter from Tancredo accuses the Democrats of lying about his votes in Congress. It's certain to get much nastier as the election nears. In his most recent attack, Toltz blasted Tancredo for accepting a second campaign contribution from the Safari Club, an Arizona-based organization with about 33,000 members in 85 countries. Official describe it as a ``hunting and hunter-advocacy group.''

The group lobbied with other gun-advocacy groups, including the National Rifle Association, to block pivotal votes on gun-control measures last year.

Tancredo voted for a measure supported by the NRA. Tancredo, a Republican from Littleton whose district includes Columbine High School, later vowed not to accept any contributions from gun-advocacy groups such as the NRA. He accepted $2,500 last year from the Safari Club, and another $1,000 about two months ago.

``He said he wasn't going to take any money from the gun lobby, and here he is, again taking that special-interest money,'' Toltz said. ``I was really surprised he would go back on his promise.''

Pearson, however, said the Safari Club is a pro-hunting organization that promotes ``a sport enjoyed by millions of Americans.'' ``If they're opposed to hunting, why don't they just go picket the Safari Club'' Pearson said. ``They need to get a new script writer.'' Toltz said there is little difference between gun-advocacy groups such as the NRA and the Safari Club. Both, he said, worked to defeat the toughest gun-control measures included in a failed House bill last year, including three-day background checks atgun shows.

``They're part-and-parcel of the gun lobby,'' he said of the Safari Club.

``And it's disingenuous of (Tancredo) to claim otherwise.''



Denver Rocky Mountain News
Monday, January 31, 2000

Michael Romano News Washington Bureau

The battle over gun control is quickly fading among Republican members of Colorado's congressional delegation.

In fact, the issue is nowhere near the top handful of concerns outlined by GOP lawmakers from Colorado as they plan for the next session of Congress.

``Gun control is strictly a political issue,'' said Rep. Joel Hefley, a Republican from Colorado Springs. ``I don't think we need any more gun-control legislation in Congress.''

Even Rep. Tom Tancredo, a Republican from Littleton, who has angered both extremes with his votes on gun control, did not initially mention the issue when asked to identify his legislative priorities.

Rather, he listed the budget, education and tax policy. Tancredo, whose district includes Columbine High School, site of the shootings that triggered the national debate over guns - mentioned gun control only when asked about it. ``Of course, we had a gun-control bill,'' Tancredo said. ``I don't know what more we can do, to tell you the truth.''

Added Rep. Bob Schaffer, a Republican from Fort Collins: ``I don't see much support in Congress for abandoning the Second Amendment. I hear the (debate over the) whole juvenile-justice bill may be over.''

But gun control isn't over for the two Democrats in the delegation. ``Gun control is among theunfinished business of this Congress,'' said Rep. Mark Udall, a Democrat from Boulder. ``Whether the (House-Senate) conference committee does anything is uncertain. But we've got to accomplish something this year.''

Many gun-control proponents aren't optimistic that the GOP-controlled Congress will pass any restrictions - especially as lawmakers race to wrap up business by early October and jump-start the campaign season.

Joseph Sudbay, political director of Handgun Control Inc., said legislation might not be passed until enough pro gun-control lawmakers are elected to shift the balance in Congress.

``We still have that package (of laws) before Congress, but I haven't heard a lot of talk about it,'' Sudbay said. ``If we're going to change gun laws, we have to change the people who make the laws.''

``Our real battle,'' he added, ``is going to be in electing a pro-gun control Congress.''

Rep. Diana DeGette, a Democrat from Denver, said lawmakers from Colorado should be especially sensitive because the Columbine shootings turned the state into ``ground zero for gun issues.''

``The fact that even Gov. Owens has reversed his position on gun control,'' said DeGette, ``should be a wake-up call to Republicans in Congress that their constituents want this kind of legislation.''

Tancredo, who faces a potentially tough challenge in his re-election bid, said he is not dismissing the volatile issue of gun control. The freshman lawmaker was the only member of the state's six-member House delegation to vote for a package of compromise gun-safety measures that ultimately was defeated. The pro-gun faction thought the package did too much, and gun-control advocates thought it did too little.

``That bill would have closed loopholes at gun shows, and it would have banned high-capacity clips,''Tancredo said. ``No person who, as a juvenile had committed any crime, could have been sold a gun under that law. And it made possession of an assault weapon by a juvenile a federal crime. ``I defy anyone to describe those things individually and call them watered-down, or pro-gun, or NRA-sponsored,'' Tancredo added. All four Republican members of the House delegation have received financial support from gun-rights groups - but none more than Tancredo. In his first election in 1998, Tancredo received $10,400 from gun-rights groups. Schaffer took in $7,000, Hefley $5,000 and Rep. Scott McInnis $3,000. Underscoring the sensitive nature of the issue, Tancredo vowed last month not to accept any contributions from gun-rights groups for his re-election campaign.

He returned a $1,000 contribution from the National Rifle Association. Colorado's two Republican senators - Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Wayne Allard - both voted last year against a package of gun-control measures that called for three-day background checks, child-safety locks and a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips.

Both senators have received substantial contributions from the gun-rights lobby. Through the 1996 election, when he won a first term, Allard had received about $14,000 from the lobby. Campbell, who won a second term in 1998, received about $27,300 between 1993 and 1998.

While the House's juvenile-justice bill languishes in a conference committee that has met just oncesince the summer, the two sides blame each other for using the issue to political advantage.

``This is an election year, so the Democrats will bring up something on guns,'' said McInnis, of Grand Junction. ``The Democrats will try to accuse the Republicans of putting machine guns in lunch boxes, so I assume they'll make this a partisan issue and grandstand on gun control.'' But DeGette dismisses the Republican argument, saying that the GOP could have called the bill to the floor for a full vote anytime during the last session. ``I'd really like to see some (gun-safety) legislation pass Congress this year - even if it means giving up a good campaign issue,'' DeGette said. ``And I think that if Congress does not pass some gun-control legislation, you're definitely going to see this as a campaign issue.''

On the Record