Littleton's Nobody's Fault -- It's a Disease!

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WASHINGTON: Well, now we know the Littleton massacre was important: President Clinton's having a White House symposium about it. Educators, cops, Hollywood executives and gun-lobbyists alike, from Gloria Estefan to the CEO of Smith & Wesson, were all there Monday, and Clinton isn't pointing fingers at any of them. "We are not here to place blame, but to shoulder responsibility," he said in a brief statement before the gab-fest was closed to the media. He's got a better idea, a way to get to the head of the class on Littleton without upsetting anyone who can make him regret it. He's declaring youth violence a disease.

The confab's main product, determined in advance by White House staffers, is the kickoff of a new surgeon general's study of violence in America. Building on similar studies done in 1972 and 1985, it will take a look at the roles of popular culture, peer pressure, mental illness and the availability of guns in teen shootings, and doubtless won't be completed until the issue (and this President) have long since moved on. President Clinton and his aspiring veep are caught between defenders of the First Amendment (the Hollywood types who donate to the Democrats) and those of the Second (the gun types who give to the GOP). How to lead, and not rile either one with a big election looming? Invite everyone else you can think of, call it a third way, and send in the doctors. Maybe they'll advise us to quit.