Get Your Free 150 MB Website Now!

Clinton in Denver on Gun Campaign

By Anne Gearan
Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, April 12, 2000; 2:10 a.m. EDT

WASHINGTON Although President Clinton asked Congress to pass new gun laws before the first anniversary of the killings at Columbine High School, the White House acknowledges the deadline will slip.

Clinton was to complain about Congress and the gun lobby today while urging voters in Colorado to take their own steps for gun control. A week before the April 20 Columbine anniversary, Clinton was endorsing a state ballot measure that would impose new requirements for buyers at Colorado gun shows, as Clinton wants to do nationally.

Clinton also planned to participate in a Denver town hall gathering on guns.

Two teen-age gunmen were among 15 dead at Columbine, in the Denver suburb of Littleton. Clinton has frequently invoked the killings as he argues for what he calls "commonsense gun laws" that include background checks for buyers at gun shows. The killers got weapons from an acquaintance who easily bought them at a flea market-style gun show.

The Colorado initiative is sponsored by Sane Alternative to the Firearms Epidemic, a group formed after Columbine.

It would require a background check before a vendor could sell a gun at a gun show, with criminal misdemeanor penalties for offenders.

Under current federal law, unlicensed dealers may sell weapons in private transactions without subjecting the purchasers to a background checks.

Clinton said he would attend the SAFE rally after his own bill became mired on Capitol Hill.

A House-Senate conference committee has been assigned to reconcile differences between a Senate-passed bill that would set a 72-hour background check on gun show sales and a House bill that shrank the wait to 24 hours.

The committee has met only once, in August, which the White House attributes to political maneuvering by the National Rifle Association.

As the Columbine anniversary approached, White House aides acknowledged this week that there is no chance of a national gun show bill before April 20.

The Colorado visit is Clinton's second foray in two days to promote gun control. On Tuesday he stood by as Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening signed a law making that state the first to require built-in locks on handguns while imposing other stringent gun-control rules.

"Every single day Congress waits, we lose 12 children, nearly 90 people overall, to gun violence," Clinton said Tuesday in the Maryland capital of Annapolis. "Congress should follow Maryland's lead."

Congress, however, was busy passing the Project Exile Act, a $100 million package of financial incentives for states that set mandatory sentences of five years without parole for criminals who use or carry guns. The House approved the bill on a 358-60 vote to the delight of the National Rifle Association, which has accused the Clinton administration of lax gun law enforcement.

"You have Governor Glendening and President Clinton basically engaging in political theater for the cameras, while the House of Representatives was about the business of (serious) public policy," said NRA chief lobbyist James J. Baker.

Copyright 2000 The Associated Press