Clinton Keeps His Sights on Gun Control

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This has been a tough week for the National Rifle Association. Two shootings — one in a first-grade classroom — shocked the country and once again galvanized gun control proponents. Sensing renewed public outrage, President Clinton decided to strike while the issue is hot, challenging the House of Representatives to pass a batch of stalled gun control legislation. The three-tiered bill, strongly opposed by the NRA, squeaked through the Senate last year, and now Clinton is leaning heavily on the House to act on the measure before the spring recess begins in mid-March. If passed, the legislation would require all gun manufacturers to include trigger safety locks on new guns, ban the import of high-volume ammunition clips and dismember the current loophole exempting some gun show patrons from a three-day waiting period before picking up their guns.

"The White House is going to try very hard to push this legislation through the House," says TIME White House correspondent Jay Branegan. "And if it doesn't pass, Clinton will beat the Republicans over the head with their failure in the fall." Clinton has grabbed this opportunity with a renewed sense of purpose; he has been talking a blue streak on gun control this week, playing to the general sense of horror over the latest gun-related violence. The President told an audience earlier this week that the rate of accidental gun deaths among American children is nine times higher than in the world's 25 other largest countries combined. While opponents of gun control have indicated they might be amenable to trigger lock legislation alone, Branegan doubts Clinton will let the other measures go. "The White House is pretty unabashed about wanting more than safety locks," he says. So Clinton is looking at a fight, and it could be protracted; the NRA is noted for its ability to tie up disagreeable legislation. "The NRA staunchly opposes waiting periods on gun purchases," says Branegan. "But they really enjoy waiting periods on gun legislation."