Gun Owners Upset About Gonzales' Support for Gun Ban

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

( - The Senate Judiciary Committee is meeting Wednesday to vote on the nomination of Alberto Gonzales to be the next U.S. attorney general; and with Republicans controlling the committee, Gonzales' nomination is sure to proceed to the full Senate for final (anticipated) approval.

But it won't happen without dissent -- from Democrats and even from some conservative gun owners.

As with the confirmation of Secretary of State-nominee Condoleezza Rice, the full Senate is expected to debate Gonzales' nomination - in full glare of the TV cameras -- before voting some time next week.

The criticism, mostly from Democrats who oppose President Bush's agenda, is expected to focus on the Iraq war and the treatment of prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

Gonzales' liberal critics accuse him of setting the stage for the scandal at Abu Ghraib by arguing that the Geneva Conventions (protections for prisoners of war) did not apply to terrorists captured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a January 2002 memo to President Bush, Gonzales said the war on terrorism was "a new kind of war" -- one that "places a high premium" on the "ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians."

Gonzales concluded, "In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."

Gonzales' critics have pounced on that memo to suggest that he condones torture.

"I think that a man who gave the legal advice to the president to allow this (Abu Ghraib) to take place is someone that deserves to be talked about on the Senate floor," Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

At his confirmation hearing earlier this month, Gonzales said he "absolutely" does not approve of torture.

In his Jan. 6 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales said he was deeply troubled by the photographs of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib; and he said he shares President Bush's resolve "that torture and abuse will not be tolerated by this administration."

He also said he would honor the Geneva Conventions "whenever they apply."

Gun ban concerns

Of greater concern to some conservatives, Gonzales has said he supports the reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act -- as well as an extension of the now-expired ban on "assault weapons."

In an email alert to its members, Gun Owners of America, a Second Amendment group, warned that Gonzales not only supports President Bush on reauthorizing the federal assault weapons ban - but Gonzales also has indicated that gun control is a "heart-felt position of his own."

GOA notes that at his confirmation hearing, Gonzales "spoke of his brother, who is a Houston SWAT officer, and said, 'I worry about his safety and the types of weapons he will confront on the street.'"

"Hence, he (Gonzales) supports a prohibition on semi-automatics that, in truth, only amounts to a ban on ugly guns," GOA told its members.

"GOA activists are certainly aware of the fact that President Bush has repeatedly trumpeted his support for the Clinton semi-auto ban, which expired last September. But every time Bush has opened his mouth on this issue, GOA activists have led the way in bombarding the White House."

It's time to take President Bush to the "political woodshed" once again, GOA said in the email.

"No, we probably won't change his mind on this issue. But if we barrage his office with phone calls, faxes and e-mails, it is very possible that we will increase his reluctance to push the ban," the email said.

"So please make sure you contact President Bush," the email concludes. "While some might think that an anti-gun Attorney General is limited in the amount of damage he can inflict upon the Second Amendment, we can be sure that his position on critical court cases could affect our gun rights for generations to come."

Gun Owners of America is urging its members to express "outrage" that President Bush "would nominate an Attorney General who supports a federal ban on semi-automatic firearms."

The email message includes a "pre-written letter" that GOA members can send to President Bush, reminding him of their opposition to any gun ban - and reminding him that he was re-elected "in large part, because gun owners opposed the cockeyed positions of your opponent."

Depite the criticism of Gonzales, even Democrats predict that he will become the nation's first Hispanic attorney general.