Rudolph W. Giuliani will go before the rank and file of the National Rifle Association on Friday, seeking support for his Republican presidential campaign from a group he once likened to "extremists" for its efforts to repeal the ban on assault weapons.
But even as the former New York mayor strives to burnish his Second Amendment credentials at the gathering in Washington, a panel of federal judges in his home town will be hearing arguments on the lawsuit that Giuliani filed seven years ago aimed at punishing the nation's gun manufacturers for violent crimes involving firearms.
Announcing the lawsuit in 2000, then-Mayor Giuliani wrote in his weekly column about issues facing the city that "this is an industry which profits from the suffering of innocent people. The lawsuit is intended to end the free pass that the gun industry has enjoyed for a very long time, which has resulted in too many avoidable deaths."
He called the lawsuit "an aggressive step towards restoring accountability to an industry that profits from the suffering of others." The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit will decide whether the lawsuit -- against Colt, Glock, Smith & Wesson and others -- can move forward despite federal legislation that attempted to grant immunity to the companies.
A spokeswoman for Giuliani's presidential campaign yesterday declined to say whether he still supports the lawsuit or the goals he laid out in 2000.
"Mayor Giuliani successfully worked to get illegal guns out of the hands of criminals in order to transform a city out of control," said spokeswoman Maria Comella. "By being tough on gun crimes and enforcing the laws on the books, New York City's murder rate was cut by 66 percent. The bottom line: The best way to deal with gun-related crime is to prosecute the criminals and enforce the laws already on the books."
Like his support for abortion rights, the mayor's earlier words on guns are likely to haunt his presidential campaign as he tries to court Republican primary voters. A recent Washington Post poll found that 57 percent of Republicans oppose stricter gun control laws.
In a 1995 interview with PBS's Charlie Rose, Giuliani said the NRA goes "overboard. The extremists on the left and the extremists on the right have essentially the same tactic," he said, adding later that "the NRA's, in essence, defense of assault weapons, and their unwillingness to deal with some of the realities here that we face in our cities is a terrible, terrible mistake."
Giuliani's support for the assault weapon ban won him the admiration of then-President Bill Clinton, who sent him an autographed picture of the pair sitting in the White House.
"To Mayor Giuliani," Clinton scrawled, "with thanks for your help on the assault weapons legislation. Bill Clinton."
Giuliani's only strength is his stance on the war. Other than that he is a liberal. I have a few issues that are tied as the most important ones. Gun ownership is one of these issues. I am tired of having a president who is supposed to be conservative doing things I so adamantly disagree with (immigration). He may be able to win the general election (he could steal a bunch of left-leaning liberals away from Hillary) but I could not support him in any way for President of the United States. Our right to keep and bear arms IS that important.