The Issues: Gun Control

gun control, assault weapons, legistlation, congress weapons ban

CBS News continues an election-year series titled "What Does It Mean To You?" focused on where the presidential candidates stand on major issues and how a vote for one or the other candidate might affect average people's lives.

In this report, CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers looks at the Bush and Kerry positions on gun control.

Middle-school teacher John Annoni needs his guns.

Growing up on some of Allentown, Pennsylvania's meanest streets, Annoni says hunting kept him on the straight and narrow.

"Being able to rely on that firearm, being able to go and shoot, took me away from a lot of pain," says Annoni, who's been hunting for "about 22 years."

So he started Camp Compass Academy, luring a new generation of inner-city kids off the streets and into the wilderness with the promise of hunting and fishing.

Voters like Annoni see any increase in gun control as a potentially slippery slope that could lead to taking their guns away.

"For me to be able to go out and relieve some stress by shooting some sporting clays, I need that in my life because that's what helps me to help others," he says. "And if somebody was to come and remove that from me, I'd be a different character."

John Annoni doesn't need to worry about new gun control legislation because the fact of the matter is nobody's talking about outlawing the kinds of guns he and his students use.

They're talking about guns like the Bushmaster XM15, the weapon used in the 2002 Washington, D.C.-area sniper shootings.

Robert Ricker, once a lobbyist for the gun manufacturers, now works against companies like Bushmaster, which he says skirt the 1994 assault weapons ban by recreating outlawed guns like the Colt AR15.

"It's basically the same gun," says Ricker. "Bushmaster took the same design for the AR 15, changed the name, changed a few minor cosmetic features and then started to produce and sell."

Last November, Sen. John Kerry co-sponsored legislation to expand the law, outlawing the Bushmaster XM15 among a list of others.

"I'm a hunter and I believe in the Second Amendment, but I've never gone hunting with an AK-47," said Kerry.

"And I'm not going to be the candidate of the NRA," he added.

President Bush would like to be.

"We stand for the Second Amendment, which gives every American the individual right to bear arms," says Mr. Bush.

The president favors renewal of the assault weapons ban, but "without additions or expansion," which would allow the Bushmaster loophole.

John Annoni would rather see less talk about which guns to allow,and more talk about how to handle them.

"The bottom line is that they're here," Annoni says.

And gun owners voting this November are likely to be wary of any candidate who talks about taking them away.