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Clinton Gives Gun Law Deadline

Election year politics mixed with emotion Tuesday as President Clinton convened a White House meeting on gun control and met with the mother of a girl shot dead in her first-grade classroom last week.

CBS News Correspondent Diana Olick reports the president met with 6-year-old Kayla Rolland's mother to try and put a human face on the gun issue.

Then he gave Congress an ultimatum.

"Congress has kept the American people waiting long enough," the president said. "I want Congress to finish the gun bill and send it to me by the anniversary of the Columbine tragedy, April 20th."

Mr. Clinton said a trigger lock could have prevented the shooting. He accused Congress of cowardice saying lawmakers won't pass the bill because they are intimidated by the pressure tactics of the NRA.

In a meeting with congressional leaders that lasted just over an hour Tuesday, the president pressed for enactment of background checks on gun shows, mandatory trigger locks and a ban on imports of large capacity ammo clips.

"There's a way to work through this, that will satisfy practical concerns that people interested in gun shows have, and still allow is to have an air-tight guarantee that we'll keep guns away for criminals and other people covered by the Brady law," the President said.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., says there is flexibility on both sides, but it still won't be easy to get the measures passed.

"We have different strongly-held views among Senators and House members. It's a tough battle," Hyde said.

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In the wake of the Columbine High School massacre, the House and Senate passed differing bills designed to keep guns out of the hands of juveniles and criminals. But lawmakers have been unable to reach a compromise. Conferees last met in August.

A key stumbling block has been changing an existing law that allows people who purchase firearms at gun shows to bypass a system of background checks.

Last spring the Republican Senate passed a gun control bill which included mandatory background checks at gun shows, child safety locks and a ban on assault weapons for juveniles.

But the Republican-controlled House deadlocked on the gun show provision and wouldn't pass the same bill.

The Senate version calls for a three-day waiting period, equal to the waiting period imposed on people who purchase firearms at stores. The House would require checks be completed in 24 hours.
There has been no movement in 7 months, despite several highly-publicized shootings.

And despite the president's deadline, movement now is unlikely. Clinton admitted to Kayla's mother that he couldn't promise her a gun bill.

For one thing, said Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, many in the GOP feel that new gun laws could not have prevented either the Michigan shooting or the Columbine massacre.

"None of what we're talking about is going to solve that, and frankly none of what we're talking about would have solved Columbine, West Paducah or Seattle or Hawaii," Hatch said, referring to other recent shootings.

Plus, in an election year, some charge the issue is more valuable than the bill. Congressional leaders still refuse even to call a meeting of negotiators. Republicans accuse Democrats of trying to milk an emotional issue for appeal to voter.

CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller reports the president referred to statistics from the Juvenile Offenders and Victims 1999 National Report, which showed that the proportion of juveniles killed with a firearm peaked at 61 percent in 1993. However, since then, the proportion has declined to 56 ercent in 1997.

The study also found that since 1980, one in four murders of juveniles involved a juvenile offender. Nearly 38,000 juveniles were murdered between 1980 and 1997.

"The single most important step we can take to reduce the juvenile crime rate is to keep guns out of the hands of juveniles," Bruce Reed, the president's domestic policy adviser, said on the eve of Tuesday's meeting.

Reed said the administration supported the Senate version and would be unwilling to compromise on that point. He said most checks are completed within hours and that the extra time was needed in cases where closer scrutiny was required.

The president also is proposing a system of photo IDs for gun owners.

©2000 CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report

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