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Clinton To Introduce Gun Control Measures, Challenge NRA Lobby

By Jack Nelson
Los Angeles Times


President Clinton, decrying the "crazy" way guns have been permitted to proliferate in the United States, has declared that he is prepared to challenge the powerful National Rifle Association lobby and introduce major new gun control measures.

The U.S. people "are way ahead of Congress" on the gun control issue, Clinton said in extraordinarily candid and at times heated remarks made in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine. Gun violence has created enough public concern to support a ban on certain kinds of guns and "a lot of other reasonable regulations."

White House aides said Thursday the president will introduce major new gun control measures early next year, but that he believes the time is not ripe to propose a total ban on handguns.

An administration task force on crime and violence that is working with first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton is considering various gun control proposals, the aides say. Attorney General Janet Reno, Education Secretary Richard Riley and Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala head the task force.

On gun control, Clinton said he was prepared to "go a long way," first getting the Brady bill passed and then moving on to "a whole range of other issues." The Brady bill, which has passed the House and is awaiting Senate action, requires a five-day waiting period on handgun purchases to allow authorities time to conduct background checks.

Among other things, Clinton said the administration would consider pushing for federal laws identical to some tough some state gun control laws. He pointed out that Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., has introduced a bill that would bar people under the age of 18 from owning or possessing firearms except under the supervision of their parents or another qualified adult, a proposal similar to a gun law passed recently in Colorado.

He also suggested that Virginia's law providing for a limit of purchasing only one handgun a month is worth incorporating into federal law. The state statute was enacted after authorities identified Virginia as a source of thousands of handguns that have turned up in Washington, New York and other places with relatively tight gun control laws.

"It's crazy what we have permitted to happen here, literally crazy," Clinton said. "A number of things are finally galvanizing the attention of Americans -- starting with the killing of the foreign tourists in Florida. But ... I'm prepared to try to move on this. In my health-care speech, I dealt with this issue as a public health problem. That gives us a handle on how guns can be regulated and dealt with."