Wash. Post's Mosk ignored Giuliani's previous support for federal gun legislation

In an August 21 entry on washingtonpost.com's The Trail blog, Washington Post staff writer Matthew Mosk wrote of Rudy Giuliani's attempts to reconcile his support of gun control as New York City mayor with his criticism of federal gun control laws as a Republican presidential candidate. But Mosk did not note that Giuliani supported federal gun control laws as mayor, including a nationwide ban on assault weapons.

In his blog post, Mosk quoted Giulani as saying. “I used gun control as mayor. ... I understand the Second Amendment. I understand the right to bear arms,” and noted the claim on Giuliani's campaign's website that, on the issue of gun control, “Rudy understands that what works in New York doesn't necessarily work in Mississippi or Montana.” From Mosk's blog entry:

Fred Thompson says he enjoyed his time in New York, where he lived and worked while filming the hit television show Law & Order.

But he just felt a little naked walking around town without all his rights.

“Anybody who knows me knows I've always cared deeply about the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms,” Thompson wrote today in an email to supporters. “So I've always felt sort of relieved when I flew back home to where that particular civil liberty gets as much respect as the rest of the Bill of Rights.”

It doesn't take special reading glasses to see the veiled reference here to former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, whose views on gun control have the potential to turn off a big chunk of the Republican primary vote. Giuliani has tried to soften an opposition to gun use forged during his service as a federal prosecutor and carried on to his years as a tough-on-crime mayor. “I used gun control as mayor,” he said at a news conference during a swing through California in February. But “I understand the Second Amendment. I understand the right to bear arms.”

Giuliani's campaign web site makes the same case, minus the initial acknowledgement, saying:

“Rudy understands that what works in New York doesn't necessarily work in Mississippi or Montana.”

However, absent from Mosk's post was mention of the fact that, as mayor, Giuliani supported federal gun control laws that affected all 50 states -- including Mississippi and Montana. Indeed, Giuliani supported the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 and the national assault weapons ban signed by President Clinton in 1994, which has since expired. On the January 27, 1994, edition of CBS This Morning, when asked if he endorsed the proposed ban, Giuliani responded: “Doing away with assault weapons? Absolutely.” Further, in an August 15, 1994, article, The New York Times reported that Giuliani “crossed party lines in a lobbying effort to help Mr. Clinton revive the [crime] bill” that included the assault weapons ban. Giuliani was even present at the signing of the bill on September 12, 1994.

In an April 17 post on his Politico.com blog, senior political writer Jonathan Martin contrasted Giuliani's current position on gun control -- that “restrictions ... are best decided on a state-by-state basis” -- with his statements from the February 6, 2000, edition of NBC's Meet the Press in support of the uniform licensing of handguns:

GIULIANI: I believe that we should treat the possession of a handgun the way we treat driving an automobile. And therefore a person who wants to possess a handgun should pass a written test, should be able to pass a physical test in the actual use of the gun, and should have to demonstrate good moral character and a reason to have the gun.

That those should be -- essentially there should be a uniform law passed by Congress that says that every state has to administer that the way we say that we're not going to let you drive an automobile if you're too young, we're not going to let you drive an automobile if you have a bad record, and every state has a slightly different variation of that, but every state has a uniform law that guarantees our safety. I think the two things are good analogies. And I've been arguing for that since at least 1980.

In his August 20 New Yorker profile of Giuliani, senior writer Peter Boyer noted that, while he supported federal legislation banning assault weapons and requiring uniform handgun licensing as mayor, "[a]s a Presidential candidate, Giuliani portrays his gun-control advocacy as an anti-crime tool, particular to New York, and says that gun regulation is best left to the states":

Potentially more dangerous for Giuliani is the gun issue. In two of the early primary states, New Hampshire and South Carolina, even many Democrats oppose gun control, and Giuliani may be seen as a big-city gun grabber. He was a visible ally of Bill Clinton's during the Brady-bill wars in the nineteen-nineties, and has been something close to an absolutist on every gun-control issue he has ever confronted, going back to his time in the Reagan Justice Department (when he opposed Edwin Meese, the White House counsel, on the issue). It is the subject on which he becomes most contorted in trying to square his past positions with his current political imperatives.

As mayor, Giuliani pressed for federal legislation banning military-type semiautomatic weapons ( “assault weapons” ), and requiring that anyone wishing to carry a handgun be licensed. As a Presidential candidate, Giuliani portrays his gun-control advocacy as an anti-crime tool, particular to New York, and says that gun regulation is best left to the states. “I was extremely aggressive in enforcing New York gun laws, and all the gun laws I could think of, to the point of reducing crime in New York,” he told me one afternoon in Baltimore this spring. (His campaign boasts that while he was mayor the murder rate dropped by sixty-seven per cent, rape by forty-six per cent, and robbery by sixty-seven per cent.)

As Media Matters for America has previously documented (here, here, here, and here), numerous media figures have noted Giuliani's support of gun control as a potential liability in his presidential campaign.

A version of Mosk's August 21 blog post also appeared in the Trail section of the August 22 print edition of the Post. However, the print version did not include the assertion by Giuliani's campaign that “Rudy understands that what works in New York doesn't necessarily work in Mississippi or Montana.”