- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 14, 2000

President Clinton yesterday angrily denounced the National Rifle Association for making what he called "outrageous and disgusting" charges suggesting he tolerates gun killings to further his political agenda.
Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the NRA who on Sunday said Mr. Clinton "is willing to accept a certain level of killing to further his political agenda," stood his ground.
"When America finds out the truth about the disgraceful failure" to prosecute gun crimes, "it's not the NRA they're going to be calling and asking why," Mr. LaPierre said yesterday.
Mr. Clinton "had the power to make America safe, and he didn't use it."
While campaigning yesterday in Ohio, a key battleground state in the presidential election, Mr. Clinton read Mr. LaPierre's Sunday comments aloud twice.
"I'm not trying to pick a fight with anybody. I'm fighting for the lives of our kids," Mr. Clinton said. "We ought not to engage in this kind of political smear tactics."
On Sunday, Mr. Clinton said the NRA "basically win[s] through intimidation. People are scared of them." He added that the NRA 3 million members aren't representative of Americans. "There's more people than that in America."
Yesterday, Mr. Clinton said if Mr. LaPierre really believes what he said, "We've got even more trouble than if it's just a horrible political mistake."
Mr. LaPierre meanwhile, said politics drive what he called the Clinton administration's "shameful" refusal to enforce gun laws.
"If it's not for a political agenda, they need to say something to the NRA or the American people that makes sense," he said. "If it takes some tough talk here about the administration's shameful policies, I'm happy to do it."
On Sunday, Mr. LaPierre said, "The president brags about 5,000 prosecutions. There's a hundred U.S. attorneys. If they were only bringing 10 cases a month, against the worst people, he'd have 12,000 prosecutions. If you bring in 20, you'd have 24,000. There's no way this president can look in a camera and justify those numbers on prosecutions."
Vice President Al Gore, campaigning in Miami, called on Mr. LaPierre to apologize, saying saying his comments Sunday reveal "a sickness at the very heart of the NRA."
Mr. LaPierre responding by saying "the vice president ought to apologize for the shameful and disgraceful failure of this administration to enforce existing federal firearms laws against violent felons with guns, drug dealers with guns and gang members with guns."
The White House and Republicans in Congress are in an election-year stalemate about gun control. The dispute is over background checks of up to 72 hours for gun-show purchases.
Mr. Clinton met last week with the mother of Kayla Rolland, 6, the first-grader fatally shot by another 6-year-old in their classroom in Morris Township, Mich.
Mr. Clinton said yesterday that it was easy for Mr. LaPierre to make such statements on television.
"I'd like to see him look into the eyes of little Kayla Rolland's mother and say that, or the parents at Columbine, or Springfield, Oregon, or Jonesboro, Arkansas, or the families of those people that were shot in Memphis," Mr. Clinton said.
Mr. LaPierre said he is unconcerned that he had given the Democrats fodder for the fall campaign if gun control become a key issue in the presidential race between Mr. Gore and Texas Gov. Georges W. Bush.
For his part, Mr. Clinton hopes it will be a defining issue in the battle for control of the House of Representatives.
"I want to read you what he said here just so you'll know that there is a difference here between the two parties and America has to choose," Mr. Clinton said at a fund-raising luncheon.
The president had planned to discuss health care in Ohio, but he wanted to respond to "the outrageous and disgusting charges that were raised yesterday by Mr. LaPierre," White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said.
The NRA recently began airing ads in which actor Charlton Heston calls the president a liar for saying the NRA prevents sensible gun safety.
"Mr. Clinton, when what you say is wrong, that's a mistake," Mr. Heston says. "When you know it's wrong, that's a lie."

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