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Clinton advocates parental liability on guns

Discusses stalled gun safety legislation during exclusive CNN interview

March 9, 2000
Web posted at: 6:13 p.m. EST (2313 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Custodial parents who "knowingly or recklessly" allow their children to obtain guns should be held legally liable, President Bill Clinton said during an interview aired Thursday on CNN's 'Burden of Proof.'

"I think if the custodial adult either knowingly or recklessly leaves a gun where a child can get ahold of it, I think there should be some liability there," he told CNN's Greta van Susteren. (244K wav file)

President Clinton was interview Thursday on CNN's "Burden of Proof."  

"Of course I think there ought to be child trigger locks on these guns. And I think that we should keep working until we develop the technology which would enable us to make handguns that can only be fired by the adults that own them."

The gun safety issue has intensified after a 6-year-old girl was recently shot and killed by a classmate in Michigan. The president recently met with the girl's mother, telling her he would "do what I could to reduce the chances of it ever happening again." (204K wav file)

"We talked about some of the specific things we were working on," he said. "There should be some accountability there. It's outrageous that this six-year-old boy was able to get that gun."

The president has been pressuring House and Senate leaders to hash out a compromise on gun safety legislation that has languished in Congress for the past eight months. Legislation supported by the president would include provisions requiring child safety locks, licensing, and gunshow background checks.

"We've been waiting eight months for these people to get together in the Senate and the House," Clinton said of the congressional log jam on gun safety legislation. House and Senate leaders cannot reach agreement over the gun show background check, even after a meeting last week at the White House.

"Predominantly Republican members of the House ... are reluctant to close the gunshow loophole," Clinton said. "And a huge number of Republicans in the Senate ... don't want to close the gun show loophole. That is, they don't want to require people at these gunshows and flea markets to have to do the same background checks." (420K wav file)

"I just think they're dead wrong," he said.

Despite his hopes that a compromise will be reached, Clinton said that there is also disagreement over the length of time allowed to conduct the background check 24 hours versus 72 hours.

Michigan's John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee "offered a 24-hour background check to (Judiciary Committee Chairman) Mr. Hyde ... as long as there was some provision for holding ... the 5 to 8 percent of the applications that can't be cleared in 24 hours," Clinton explained.

"A small percentage cannot be done," he said. "And in that small percentage the people that are likely to be rejected are 20 times the rate of rejections in the last five percent as in the first 95 percent." Background checks within that group should be extended to 72 hours, he said.

"It's going to be interesting to see whether they engage us in good faith on that," he said of House Republicans.

Going beyond the background check, Clinton said that he still believes that gun owners should be required to "pass a Brady background check and a safety check and be licensed. I think we ought to license handgun owners the way we license car owners."

Commenting on Congress' seeming reluctance to pass effective legislation, Clinton said he understands the gun culture and that as a gun owner himself, he has "been a part of it." (240K wav file)

But, he added, "I do not think it is right, for people who are law abiding to prevent the passage of these laws that will plainly save lives."

It should be "no big deal," he said, for a law abiding citizen to undergo a background check.

"Nobody complains about going through airport metal detectors, even if they have to go through them two or three times, because they know it saves lives."

Clinton said he supports Vice President Al Gore's proposal of requiring photo IDs for gun owners. "I think for crime control reasons and for safety reasons that would be a good thing to do, just as we license drivers. "

"I think he's absolutely right about that."




Thursday, March 9, 2000


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