Washington Outlook

President Gives Congress Deadline on Gun Safety
Praises Mayor Knight's Race Initiative
Major NLC Address

By Dave Gatton
March 20, 2000

President Clinton has called on Congress to pass gun safety legislation by the April 20 anniversary of the Columbine student killings. The presidential call came in the wake of congressional failure to meet in a House-Senate Comference Committee over an eight month period to iron out the differences in a juvenile justice bill that contains gun safety provisions opposed by the National Rifle Association.

Speaking before the National League of Cities annual legislative conference on March 10th in Washington D.C., Clinton told over 4,000 delegates that closing the gun show loophole, requiring child safety locks, and banning the importation of large ammunition clips was “profoundly important” to protecting the nation’s children.

“I know that they (Congress) are under a lot of pressure not to meet. And you know why – because those who don’t want any legislation don’t want to get caught killing it,” the President said. 

The President’s strong words were just one salvo in a series of heated exchanges between the Administration and the National Rifle Association over the past week. Days after the speech, Wayne LaPierre of the NRA accused the President of using the shooting death of six year-old Kayla Rolland by another six year-old classmate for political advantage. That accusation drew an even stronger reaction and call from the White House for Congress to act on legislation before the Columbine anniversary date.

Clinton reminded the delegates that when he signed the Brady bill into law, opponents said that he was engaging in a cheap publicity stunt and that criminals didn’t buy guns in gun stores. “Lo and behold, six and a half years later we’ve got 500,000 felons, fugitives and stalkers that couldn’t get guns. Who knows how many people are alive because of that?” he said.

While the nation’s crime rate is at a 25-year low, the President said that this “still is a country where the crime rate is too high and where there’s too much violence.” He cited his administration’s accomplishment of putting 100,000 police officers on the streets, the Brady bill and the assault weapons ban and gun buy-back programs as examples of federal initiatives that have helped bring the crime rate down.  But he clearly left the League’s delegates with the message that more could be done and that Congress should pass key gun safety measures by April 20th.  “I hope and pray that they will,” the President said.

One America

The President also praised NLC President and Wichita Mayor Bob Knight for his efforts to make human rights and race relations a top priority of the National League of Cities in the coming year.  “I came here more than anything else to tell you that this Mayor and this program is the most important thing you could be doing today,” he said.   

If the President were granted one life-time wish, he said, “I wouldn’t wish for continued prosperity. I wouldn’t wish for finding outer galaxies, to see if there’s life there. I would wish for our country to be one America.”

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