The Popcorn-and-Soda Set Gets Carded

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Hey kids, wanna see an R-rated movie this summer? Better bring along Mom or Dad -- or a photo ID. On Tuesday, President Clinton announced that the National Association of Theater Owners has agreed to voluntarily enforce the "Restricted" movie rating category by requiring a photo I.D., a step the President showcased as a significant move to curb child access to violence in films. The association represents some 20,000 screens, or about two thirds of movie houses in the U.S.

"Having been accused of being soft on the culture part of the violence equation," says White House correspondent Jay Branegan, "the President decided to try to show with this announcement that this is not so." But the Presidentís move also comes as part of a broader political strategy -- not coincidentally, the President on Tuesday again called on the House to pass the gun control legislation that was approved in the Senate last month. In the face of continued NRA lobbying and strong Republican sympathy, the provisions face at least as tough going in the lower chamber as they did in upper. "The photo I.D. announcement was crafted in part as a cover to go after guns," says Branegan. "Itís the Presidentís way of saying 'Now that Iíve done something on the culture side, itís time for Congress to do something on the gun side." The Presidentís move on movies is unlikely to cause opponents of gun control to relent, but in the public relations war that has so far well served Democratic antigun activists, itís one more bludgeon to wield in the final gun control showdown expected later this month.