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King’s Widow Calls For Congressional Action On Handguns

March 31, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The widow of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King on Wednesday urged Congress to ″end the needless sacrifices of men, women and children″ and vote to control the sale of handguns.

The call by Coretta Scott King came on the seventh anniversary of the shooting of President Reagan outside a Washington hotel.

″For too long,″ Mrs. King said, ″Congress has acquiesced to the gun lobby. The only thing that will bring an end to this inaction is an aroused citizenry.″

Mrs. King then put the first signature on a petition, sponsored by the National Coalition to Ban Handguns, that calls for handgun sale restrictions. She, along with the Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Robert F. Kennedy, are the honorary chairwomen of the coalition’s petition drive.

The petition drive coincides with the 20th anniversary of the deaths of King and Kennedy. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, and Kennedy on June 6, 1968.

In a separate statement, Sarah Brady, wife of White House Press Secretary James Brady, who was wounded in the attack seven years ago on Reagan, made a personal plea to Congress for stronger handgun control laws.

Mrs. Brady said she supports legislation that would require a seven-day waiting period for handgun purchases to allow police to conduct a background check.

″I’m firmly convinced that had such a proposal been in effect seven years ago, John Hinckley would have been prevented from purchasing the handgun he used to shoot the president, my husband and two law enforcement officers,″ Mrs. Brady said in a statement.

Mrs. King, at the news conference, cited significantly lower murder statistics from countries that restrict handgun sales. Such restrictions, she said, ″are more effective than capital punishment″ in deterring killings.

″We need to end the needless sacrifices of men, women and children on the altar of congressional inaction,″ Mrs. King added.

Speaking earlier was Cynthia Harris, whose 17-year-old son was shot to death on March 12 in Washington.

″We moved from Detroit, the so-called murder capital of the world, to Washington because we thought it was safer,″ Mrs. Harris said. ″You can run but you cannot hide.″

The petition does not endorse any specific piece of legislation. But Michael K. Beard of the National Coalition to Ban Handguns said that ″we hope it will stimulate this Congress to enact a national waiting period requirement before a handgun may be purchased, to ban the sale of non-detectable handguns and to ban Saturday Night Specials, the kind of handgun used to kill Robert Kennedy.″