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Clinton Plans New Gun-Control Bill

April 27, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ One week after the Colorado shootings, President Clinton will propose legislation Tuesday that would require background checks on sales of explosives and hold parents liable when their children commit crimes with guns.

Clinton is counting on outrage over the shootings to help push the bill through Congress. ``The prospects are good,″ White House press secretary Joe Lockhart said Monday. ``Unfortunately, oftentimes it takes tragic events to catalyze work here in Washington.″

The president planned a White House ceremony to announce his new omnibus anticrime package. It will contain the restriction on explosives sales as well as measures that died in the last Congress, according to sources familiar with the proposals, speaking only on condition of anonymity.

White House officials were still working on the explosives provision, which would aim to treat their sale the same way gun sales are treated under the Brady law, congressional sources said. It was unclear how ``explosives″ would be defined.

In Littleton, Colo., the killers had homemade hand grenades and pipe bombs as well as guns. In Oklahoma City, two tons of explosive fertilizer were used to blow up the federal building.

Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., applauded Clinton’s initiative at cracking down on explosives but wondered if it was a problem too loosely defined to tackle.

``If you’re talking about propane gas tanks and agricultural chemicals, I’m anxious to see how they define the component parts of this,″ Durbin said.

Clinton is proposing:

_Mandatory child-safety locks on all guns sold.

_All gun-show sales be subject to background checks on buyers.

_A lifetime ban on gun ownership for people who commit violent crimes as juveniles.

_A three-day waiting period for all handgun purchases, with an extra two days if law officers require them. Up to last year, the Brady Act provided five days for police to conduct background checks on buyers if they needed that much time. Now, it provides up to three days, but most checks are instantaneous. There never has been a minimum, mandatory waiting period.

_Criminal liability and a $10,000 fine for adults, including parents, who allow children access to guns.

The adult could be held liable whenever a juvenile crime is committed and the adult ``knowingly or recklessly allowed it to occur,″ said White House spokesman Barry Toiv. He added that the legislation’s standard of reckless conduct would be ``a difficult standard to meet.″

Clinton raised this liability issue long before the Colorado shootings and it is not now meant to suggest that those parents should be blamed, said Toiv.

Lockhart, announcing the general proposal though not the details on Monday, criticized the National Rifle Association for fighting Clinton on gun control.

``I think there is a consensus in this country that we need to do more; the president will propose to do more and it is time for the NRA to get out of the past and get on the right side of this issue,″ Lockhart said.

NRA spokesman Jim Manown replied: ``It’s inappropriate for us to engage in a political debate at this moment.″ He said NRA officials would address the issue at their trimmed-down annual conference in Denver this weekend.

Durbin championed a more limited liability than Clinton is proposing. The limited version _ for situations where a gun owner shows negligence by not safely storing firearms _ gained just 31 votes last year.

This year, Durbin said, ``with presidential leadership and public support, I think this Littleton, Colo., tragedy can galvanize the majority we need.″

But Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, who represents South Dakota, where guns are popular among ranchers and sportsmen, was skeptical about passing any new restrictions.

``I’m not sure that gun legislation is what we need,″ Daschle told reporters. He suggested the school shootings were more of a societal problem stemming from adults’ neglect and violence in the media and on the Internet.

``Those are the kinds of things we better be looking at,″ he said.

Andrew Molchan, director of the National Association of Federally Licensed Gun Dealers, said the 7,000 gun dealers he represents support a lifetime ban on gun ownership for anyone who commits a violent crime.

But the rest of Clinton’s package, Molchan said, ``is an unfortunate diversion and, in our view, a dangerous diversion that takes energy, time and thought away from the real issues.″

``Somebody doesn’t decide to walk into a school and murder several people because of lack of a gun lock or something,″ he said. ``It’s a horrible, profound, moral issue.″

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