Keeping Kids Gun-Free

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Three years ago, 15-year-old Louis Brown of Boston was killed by a stray bullet as he headed to a Christmas party sponsored by a local anti-gang group. On Monday, Louis's parents were at the White House to see President Clinton announce a Federal program that will document and trace weapons sold to youths. Under Clinton's plan, information on guns confiscated from juveniles in 17 cities will be entered into a federal computer database. Then, ATF agents and local police can trace the guns back to the original sellers using documents and serial numbers. There's more than enough work to be done: homicides attributed to kids with handguns have jumped 418 percent since 1984; homicides by other kinds of guns are up 125 percent, according to The New York Times. Noting the sharp spike in juvenile deaths in recent years, Clinton said: "We have to give the future back to all of our children. We cannot ... keep allowing our young people to die before their dreams ever have a chance to take shape. We know gangs often buy in bulk from a single shadowy supplier. We need a national campaign to cut off the flow." Some cities have already moved to battle teen crime with pilot versions of the federal plan launched Monday, most of which have been largely successful. In New York, for instance, federal agents found that one store in Alabama had supplied at least 4,000 guns that had been seized in the city; 35 people were arrested for bringing the guns to New York and selling them there. In Boston, according to The Times, the gun program and increased police efforts against guns have been so successful that no children have been killed by guns this year. The announcement seems conspicuously well-timed for his re-election campaign, notes TIME Washington correspondent James Carney: "Politics always plays a part in these announcements, which doesn't mean that this is bad policy, just that it's also for Clinton's political benefit." So between now and November, says Carney, Americans can expect more Clinton-proposed feel-good measures. Jenifer Mattos