Gore to call for tighter gun control as country reels from yet another shooting
November 4, 1999
SEATTLE -- Vice President Al Gore and leading congressional Democrats will renew calls for stricter gun control legislation Thursday, as the United States deals with the latest deadly shooting rampages.
Adding to the impact of the incidents is that both occurred in cities with reputations of a high quality of life.
But senior Republicans are skeptical that tightening gun control can prevent violent incidents such as this week's shootings in Seattle and Honolulu.
House Republican Whip Tom DeLay of Texas also played down the likelihood of new legislation being passed before Congress recesses in about a week -- even in light of the most recent incidents.
"The outlook is not very good," DeLay said, adding, "Even if the bill is passed, it wouldn't stop these shootings."
After the Littleton, Colorado high school shootings last April in which two students went on a shooting rampage, the U.S. Senate passed new gun control measures, including mandatory background checks for all sales at gun shows.
But similar gun legislation was defeated in the House, and efforts to revive legislation or work out a compromise between the House and the Senate have stalled.
Shootings re-ignite debate
The shootings in Seattle Wednesday, when two people died, and in Honolulu Tuesday, when seven died, have re-ignited the debate over guns and workplace violence, although police could not confirm a relationship between the Seattle gunman and his victims.
"I join with all Americans in expressing shock and profound sorrow at the shootings which have occurred over the last two days in Honolulu and Seattle," President Clinton told reporters in offering federal assistance to local officials.
"I don't want to diminish the agony of these two incidents, that they are truly awful ... But I think we have to acknowledge the fact that we have been willing to tolerate a much higher level of violence than we should have," Clinton said.
Honolulu has lowest murder rate
Like Honolulu, Seattle has developed a reputation as one the most livable cities in the United States. The Seattle area is home to major high-tech employers such as Microsoft and Boeing and has grown rapidly in recent years.
Seattle mayor Paul Schell called the shooting violence in both communities "senseless", although he said he did not know if tough gun laws would have prevented either one of them.
"There are people around who are mentally ill, mentally disturbed, I don't know all the reasons and we do the best we can," Schell told reporters.
A University of Washington criminologist said that while Seattle was a desirable place to live, its murder rate was consistent with cities of similar size. The city recorded 49 homicides in 1998, according to police.
"We accordingly have all kinds of murders, from Mom and Pop murders to serial murders to things like this. It is always startling when it happens but it is not unusual," said criminologist Joel Weis. Honolulu has the lowest murder rate of any major U.S. city.
Advocates seize on shootings
Gun control advocates seized on the Seattle and Honolulu events as more evidence that the United States should strengthen its control of firearms.
"Preventive measures, legislative and otherwise, need to be taken immediately to stem the reign of terror that troubled, armed citizens have cast upon our neighborhoods and schools," said Pamela Eakes, founder of Seattle-based Mothers Against Violence in America.
Washington State, of which Seattle is the largest city, does not require a permit to purchase a firearm, although there is a five-day waiting period for handgun purchases, according to the Violence Policy Center.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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