TALLAHASSEE - Former U.S. Attorney
General Janet Reno, still weighing a gubernatorial run, suggested Friday
that licensing gun owners would help curb violent crime.
Widely considered the front- runner in a crowded field of Democratic hopefuls, Reno stopped short of calling for firearm registration, saying instead gun owners should have to demonstrate "they know how to safely and lawfully'' use firearms.
Reno's remarks to members of the Capital Tiger Bay Club, a tough crowd that includes some of Florida's most powerful political insiders, demonstrated her willingness to build an agenda on a mix of politically safe and volatile topics.
She called for greater emphasis on early childhood education, preventive health measures and criminal rehabilitation. She said police needed to be given the technological expertise needed to apprehend increasingly sophisticated cyber thieves.
But she also tackled America's continued distinction as the most violent industrialized nation despite a crime rate now at its lowest point in more than 30 years. Licensing firearm users, she suggested, would help curb that.
"My approach to guns is anybody who possesses a weapon ought to demonstrate they know how to safely and lawfully use them, and if they don't do so, take them back,'' she said later.
Reno insisted her position differs from gun registration, describing the effort instead as licensing firearm owners "for each gun'' they own.
While many of her potential rivals for the Democratic nomination are taking pains to avoid politically turbulent issues, Reno waded right into them.
The move puts her squarely at odds with the vocal and well-funded gun rights lobby.
Marion Hammer, the chief lobbyist in Tallahassee for the National Rifle Association, said Reno's remarks come as no surprise.
It's a similar position former Vice President Al Gore took while campaigning for the presidency last year, Hammer said.
"That flies in the face of freedom,'' Hammer said. "She has a history of disrespecting the Second Amendment.''
Reno, 63, a former Miami state attorney tapped by President Clinton to serve as the nation's attorney general, spent eight years in a political hot seat.
She has spent the past couple of months touring Florida, talking with voters and gauging support for a potential 2002 run against Governor Jeb Bush.
Other Democrats either seeking their
party's nomination or contemplating a run include U.S. Rep. Jim Davis of
Tampa, former Ambassador to Vietnam Pete Peterson, Tampa lawyer Bill
McBride, state House Minority Leader Lois Frankel, state Sen. Daryl Jones
and Tallahassee Mayor Scott Maddox.
David Wasson can be reached at (850) 222-8382 & via E-mail at [email protected].
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