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News Briefs, part 2

Ulster Catholic Leader Talks Of Peace to IRA

Los Angeles Times

LONDON

The senior Catholic political leader in Ulster told the Irish Republican Army on Tuesday that ending the campaign of violence for a united Ireland would be one of the century's "greatest acts of moral courage."

John Hume, leader of the Social Democratic and Labor Party, said he realized that Sinn Fein, the legal political arm of the outlawed IRA, would face an enormous challenge in accepting the terms of last month's British-Irish peace declaration. The pact offered Sinn Fein a place in peace negotiations if the IRA would lay down its arms.

Hume, the leading Catholic moderate in Northern Ireland and a member of the British House of Commons, in a statement to the IRA declared of possible peace talks: "It will require from the republican movement, given the experience that its members have been through, one of the greatest acts of moral courage of this century.

Hume said that it was time to leave the past behind so that the Ireland of the next century would not be scarred by the gun and bomb, but instead would develop as part of a new Europe.

His secret talks with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams laid the groundwork for the Downing Street Declaration signed in London on Dec. 15 by Prime Minister John Major and Irish Premier Albert Reynolds. The specific content of the Hume-Adams talks has not been disclosed.

Bentsen Proposes 10-Fold Hike In Gun Dealer License Fees

Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON

Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen called Tuesday for a nearly 10-fold increase in gun dealer license fees as a step toward tightening federal controls over gun purchases, but conceded the proposal deals with at most a third of the United States' weapons sales.

Bentsen, a self-described lifetime gun owner and hunter, said hiking license fees would weed out as many as 80 percent of license holders, who Clinton administration officials say acquire the permits solely to take advantage of tax breaks and manufacturers discounts, or to ship weapons across state lines.

The proliferation of such licensees has greatly hindered federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms inspectors responsible for policing the industry, said Bentsen, whose department includes ATF.

Bentsen acknowledged that the higher fees would have limited effect because only one-third of the nation's guns are purchased through the 284,000 licensed dealers. He estimated that the other two-thirds come from off-the-street sales, from criminals who trade drugs for guns or steal them during burglaries, from black markets and flea markets and children who get them from their parents.

Americans own more than 200 million guns, and every 10 seconds another rolls off an assembly line and one is imported every 11 seconds, Bentsen said.

Bentsen noted that last year's Brady Bill, the first major firearms legislation enacted by Congress since 1968, raised the federal gun dealer license from $10 a year to $66 a year -- or $200 for a three-year permit.