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Republicans Push Gun Law Enforcement Bill.
- Gun Control Basics -

WASHINGTON, 9 April 2000 - Seeking to grab the initiative on the issue of gun violence, congressional Republicans pushed legislation that would reward states imposing tough mandatory sentences on crimes involving firearms.

DEMOCRATS SAID THE bill, based on a successful Richmond, Va., anti-gun program, merely deflected attention from the failure of Congress to enact more fundamental gun-control legislation.  The measure, sponsored by Rep. Bill McCollum, R-Fla., chairman of the House Judiciary crime subcommittee, would
provide $100 million in grants over five years to states imposing a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence, without parole, for anyone who uses or carries a firearm during a violent or serious drug-trafficking crime.

McCollum said the bill combined the proven approaches of enforcing gun laws already on the books and ensuring mandatory minimum sentences for criminals who break them.  The model for the bill is Project Exile, a gun crime mandatory sentencing program in Richmond that supporters say is responsible, since its inception in 1997, of significantly reducing violent crime in a city that had one of the highest crime rates in the country.

Virginia’s Republican Gov. James Gilmore, who last July signed into law a statewide “Virginia Exile” program, told a hearing of the crime subcommittee that the McCollum bill, if enacted would show “how valuable Exile can be in assisting them in breaking the link between guns, drugs and violent crime.”
Currently six states, including Virginia, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina and Colorado, would qualify for the funding.

The many Republicans, and some Democrats, who opposes stricter gun control laws contend that there are plenty of laws on the books already and blame the administration for being lax in prosecuting violators.
U.S. Attorney Walter Holton, representing the Justice Department, disputed that, saying federal prosecution of gun bills is up since 1992.

Holton, U.S. Attorney in North Carolina, said the department supports the goals of the McCollum bill but said it falls far short of the $280 million sought by the administration for next year alone to boost firearms enforcement.   Democrats on the panel were more critical: Rep. Robert Scott, D-Va., said mandatory
sentencing discriminated against minorities and there was no empirical evidence it was effective
in reducing crime.  Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said “we shouldn’t be tricked by the false choice” of enforcement versus gun control.  He asked why the committee wasn’t considering a more comprehensive bill he is sponsoring with Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y.,
that would provide funds for more federal gun agents and prosecutors, improve gun tracing, fund smart gun technologies and close gun law loopholes.

Congress has been deadlocked since last year over a juvenile crime bill that contains provisions to tighten gun controls, particularly on sales at gun shows. House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri said at a news conference Thursday that “everybody is for enforcing gun laws, but the issue we’ve got to also deal with is the gun laws themselves. The Brady loophole, the gun show loophole, is the major way that lots of guns are flooding into our major cities.”  The two parties did come together Thursday on proposed legislation under which the federal government would provide matching grants for school safety programs such as the installation of metal detectors and training of security personnel.

The bill, offered by Rep. Steve Rothman, D-N.J., is backed by Conyers and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill.  The bill number is H.R. 4051.

Gun Control Basics

President Clinton has renewed attention on gun control, urging Congress to pass new restrictions, several aimed at keeping guns away from kids.  Clinton also wants licensing of gun owners as a "next step."   Below are some basics about the debate as viewed by Clinton and the NRA.

Trigger Locks:

ISSUE: In an attempt to curb gun deaths among children, provisions in both
houses have called for mandatory child safety locks on all new firearm purchases.

CLINTON: A substantial number of gun owners improperly store their
firearms, allowing children easy access that results in hundreds of deaths each year. Trigger locks
are a cheap and readily available solution.
NRA: Most gunmakers already provide locks and legislating it is just
politics. Moreover, requiring locks could potentially cost lives because many owners trying to defend
themselves against attackers might not be able to react quickly enough.

Gun Show Background Checks

ISSUE: In most states it's legal for people to gather at gun shows and sell weapons from their personal collections to anyone without the background check licensed gun dealers must run under the Brady Law. An amendment requiring background checks on gun show purchases passed the Senate, but its future is unclear.

CLINTON: The administration contends that gun shows are bazaars where criminals can buy firepower without leaving a paper trail.  Many of the collectors selling the guns make a living as gun dealers, avoiding federal gun laws,
according to the White House.
NRA: Instant criminal background checks on gun show purchases are
reasonable, but the government's scrupulous practice of record keeping on those who pass the
check is not. Losing this battle would usher in more gun show restrictions.

Ammo Clips (Magazines)

ISSUE: Congress outlawed domestically made ammunition clips of more than 10 rounds in 1993. Clips manufactured before that time and many foreign made clips are still in use.  The Senate has advanced legislation to ban those imports.

CLINTON: Criminals favor the tens of thousands of high-capacity clips
remaining in circulation.  Taking that amount of firepower away is essential for safety.
NRA: Argues the possession of clips holding more than 10 rounds is a Second Amendment right.   There is no evidence that capasity makes  any diference in gun crimes.

Liscense & Registration

ISSUE: Legislation would require licensing citizens who purchase or receive any handgun or ammunition.  Registration would track the transfer or ownership of a specific handgun.  Like drivers' licenses, these would be issued by state governments.

CLINTON: Minimum national standards will help to stop interstate
gun trafficking and ensure that everyone who buys a handgun in this country is qualified to own one.
NRA: Such a system unnecessarily scrutinizes law-abiding citizens while
criminals who do not comply escape detection.  The government should
not license a Second Amendment right.

Safe Storage

ISSUE: Bills in both houses seek fines on gun owners if a child gains access to a loaded firearm, and criminal penalties if that gun is used in an act of violence.

CLINTON: Guns in the home increase the chances that they'll be
used against family members, often by intruders or children.  Parents must be held liable for children's
actions resulting from irresponsible storage.
NRA: Responsible gun owners already store firearms safely.  Government-mandated standards are an invasion of privacy and a step toward abolishing gun ownership for
home protection.

Source: NRA; Handgun Control, Inc.

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