Spokesman says vote does not mark shift in new senator's views on issue

Section: Main,  Page: A3

Date: Friday, February 27, 2009

WASHINGTON -- In her first vote on the issue since being appointed to the Senate, Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., on Thursday voted to reject a measure that would expand gun rights.

The issue arose as part of legislation that would give Washington, D.C., a voting member of the House of Representatives. Before passing the D.C. vote measure, the Senate voted 62-36 to adopt an amendment that would expand gun rights in the nation's capital.

Gillibrand joined 32 other Democrats and the two independents who caucus with them in opposing the proposal. Gillibrand's position was cheered by gun control supporters and seemed to mark a shift in her longtime stance as a firm supporter of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

But Gillibrand's spokesman, Matt Canter, said the vote against repealing D.C. gun restrictions was consistent with her previous views.

"As she has said before, Sen. Gillibrand believes that local governments have a right to place reasonable restrictions on firearms," Canter said.

Since New York Gov. David Paterson tapped Gillibrand last month to take the Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, she has drawn criticism for her stance favoring "hunters' rights" and her endorsement from the National Rifle Association.

But Gillibrand's short record on the issue while serving in the House of Representatives was probably in part a product of the rural 20th Congressional District that she represented; it contains more NRA members than any of the 28 other districts in New York.

Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said the group was "very pleased to see Sen. Gillibrand's vote."

"It shows she is looking at the issue from a new perspective," Helmke said.

Gillibrand's Senate position runs counter to her vote on an almost identical proposal in the House last September.

Then, Gillibrand voted for legislation that would have repealed a ban on semiautomatic weapons in Washington, D.C., and gotten rid of criminal penalties for anyone possessing an unregistered firearm in the city. The bill, which passed the House 260-160 (with the support of 82 Democrats), never advanced in the Senate.

The proposal passed by the Senate on Thursday, sponsored by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., would block D.C. from prohibiting individuals from possessing firearms. It also would repeal laws in the nation's capital that bar people from possessing semiautomatic weapons and void the city's firearm registration requirements.

The Senate-passed measure also would do away with requirements that guns be secured with child-safety locks or disassembled.

Because a similar proposal passed the House last year, it is expected to survive when the House considers the D.C. voting bill next week.


Gillibrand joined 32 other Democrats and the two independents who caucus with them in opposing the proposal.