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Clinton Continues to Push Lawmakers on Gun Safety

Legislation: President cites shooting death of 6-year-old by classmate in asking Congress to 'get the job done.'

March 05, 2000|From Associated Press

PALO ALTO, Calif. — President Clinton appealed to lawmakers Saturday to reject "the pressure tactics and the threats" of the gun lobby in anticipation of this week's White House meeting on gun-safety legislation.

In his weekly radio address, Clinton said he will push for a requirement that handguns come with child safety locks, a ban on importation of large-capacity ammunition clips and mandatory background checks on handgun purchasers at gun shows.

Those are similar to provisions in a bill the Senate passed last year on a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Al Gore.

At Tuesday's meeting, Clinton said, he will insist that lawmakers "get the job done."

He cited the death last week of 6-year-old Kayla Rolland, killed in Michigan by a classmate, also 6, who brought a gun to school. American children are killed by gunfire at a rate nine times higher than the combined total of the next 25 top industrial nations.

"This is intolerable, and we must act, because we can do something about it," Clinton said.

Jim Nicholson, chairman of the Republican National Committee, accused Clinton of exploiting the Michigan incident "to score political points for himself and Al Gore."

For Clinton, on a political fund-raising trip to California, the address was the fourth time in a week that he criticized Congress for failing to act on legislation he submitted after last year's Columbine High School shootings.

"In a country of 270 million people, no law can stop every act of gun violence. But we can't just throw up our hands as if gun safety laws don't make a difference," Clinton said.

Clinton said he also wants Congress to approve state-issued licenses for newly purchased handguns; stricter punishment for adults whose guns fall into children's hands; and money to hire 1,000 new prosecutors for firearms cases and to develop "smart gun" technology that makes the weapon work only for its rightful owner.

On Thursday, after Clinton said he was summoning congressional leaders to the White House, Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) said compromise is possible in good-faith bargaining. "I think the country wants legislation," said Hyde, House Judiciary Committee chairman.

Clinton sought Saturday to defuse arguments by critics that his proposals would do little to stop a criminal determined to get a gun. He said the same argument was used against the Brady background-check law, and it has stopped 500,000 firearms purchases by felons since 1993.

Rep. J.C. Watts Jr., the chairman of the House Republican Conference, responded in a statement: "What we have here is not a failure of gun laws but a failure of parents, society and personal responsibility."

In the weekly Republican radio address, Connecticut Gov. John Rowland alluded to the Michigan slaying in saying that states and local governments need more flexibility to educate and help troubled children.

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