Giuliani didn’t talk about his support for national handgun licensing today in Georgia. Wonder why?

Last month, I went to a breakfast meeting of progressives with right-wing guru Grover Norquist. One thing we learned is that Rudy Giuliani’s biggest problem with the GOP base would be his very, very strong record on gun control. Norquist is on the Board of the National Rifle Association so he knows. Actually, Grover’s quote was “Rudy’s biggest problem is guns.”

Today, in Georgia, we saw Rudy’s strategy for downplaying his pro-gun control record:

Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, a strong proponent of gun control during his years as New York mayor, told a Southern audience Friday that he supports the constitutional right to bear arms.

During a town-hall style meeting, Giuliani focused on combatting terrorism, cutting taxes and ending illegal immigration. Several in the audience of some 200 raised questions about issues at the forefront for some conservative Southerners: gun rights and embryonic stem-cell research.

“It doesn’t matter if I believe in it or not — and I do — it is the Second Amendment,” Giuliani said. “I’m a strict constructionist. The Second Amendment says you have an individual right to bear arms.”

Giuliani earned a reputation for strictly enforcing gun laws while New York mayor.

To say Rudy was a “strong proponent of gun control” is an understatement. He was a leader on the issue and never missed a chance to tout his pro-gun control credentials. Rudy’s got some serious spinning to do if he’s going to win over the gun crowd. He’s basically going to have to do a complete 180.

Rudy earned a reputation for trashing the weak gun laws in states like Georgia. He literally blamed Southerners for New York’s gun crime. It’s true, but the pro-gun forces aren’t going to like it. Here’s one of the best passages (from an March 7, 1997 archived NY Times article:

The city’s crime reductions cannot continue much further, [Giuliani] said, especially if guns continue to flow freely into New York from elsewhere in the country, where gun laws are more lax. The five southern states that account for 60 percent of the guns in the city are Florida, Georgia, Virginia, and North and South Carolina, he said, and if Congress would only impose handgun licensing on those states and the rest of the country, New York’s crime rate would plummet even further….

For months, the Mayor has tried to prepare the electorate for the possibility that the city’s dramatic reductions in crime will at some point level off. Though there are some initial signs that this year’s crime rate could fall below last year’s low, it obviously cannot continue to fall forever, a looming reality that has revitalized the Mayor’s campaign against out-of-town guns.

The strategy, which he does not hesitate to disseminate in speeches and national television interviews, operates on two levels: By reviving his 1994 proposal to license guns, he trumps his more liberal Democratic opponents on an issue popular in New York City, especially among the nonwhite voters he is trying to court, an important effort for a former prosecutor whose best-known achievements are in the area of law enforcement. And he now has an entire region of the country to blame when a high-profile shooting blemishes his crime statistics, as the Empire State Building incident did last month. The gunman, who shot eight people, killing two — including himself — bought his gun in Florida.

Giuliani was always blaming that Southern region of the country for having weak guns laws. And, as he travels around that South, those pro-gun folks should know that Rudy wanted them to get licenses to own guns, just like they do in New York City. They’ll love that.

On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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