- The Washington Times - Monday, March 20, 2000

The National Rifle Association intensified its verbal warfare with the Clinton administration yesterday, linking the federal government's failure to prosecute a former black militant for a 1995 gun offense to the fatal shooting of a deputy sheriff in Atlanta last week.

NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre appeared on three political talk shows yesterday and refused to apologize for remarks he made a week ago when he said President Clinton exploited gun violence for political gain.

He and NRA President Charlton Heston, who was interviewed separately on a fourth talk show, criticized the Clinton administration for failing to enforce existing gun laws. "This lack of enforcement is killing people," Mr. LaPierre said on "Fox News Sunday."

Both he and Mr. Heston cited the shooting death Thursday of Sheriff's Deputy Ricky Kinchen in Fulton County, Ga. The deputy and another officer were gunned down when they tried to arrest Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, the former Black Panther leader once famous as H. Rap Brown.

In network appearances yesterday, the NRA officials said Mr. Al-Amin was carrying an unlicensed handgun when he was arrested in Atlanta five years ago after a man said Mr. Al-Amin shot him. The man later recanted his accusations.

Mr. LaPierre said police in the Atlanta area called the Clinton administration at the time to see if federal officials wanted to prosecute Mr. Al-Amin for illegal possession of a firearm. "The Clinton administration refused to prosecute, and he wound up killing someone," Mr. LaPierre said on Fox. At this point, Mr. Al-Amin has only been accused in the shootings, not convicted. He remains at-large.

On NBC's "Meet the Press," White House press secretary Joe Lockhart said it's "not true" the administration has been lax in enforcing gun laws. "The idea that the president and vice president are responsible for murders, nobody believes that," he said.

To accuse the president of "having blood on his hands" and "of promoting violence" is "sick rhetoric," Mr. Lockhart said.

Asked about the NRA's charge that the administration refused to prosecute Mr. Al-Amin for unlawful possession of a firearm, Mr. Lockhart said on NBC it was the first he had heard of that. "You probably need to talk to local authorities… . The vast majority of [such] prosecutions are done at the state" and local levels, he said.

Mr. LaPierre doesn't deny that. But he says the federal government can also prosecute these cases, but largely doesn't. "They could have taken [Mr. Al-Amin] off the streets for up to 10 years," he told Fox.

"Rap Brown would be in jail and that sheriff would still be alive … if the Clinton administration had done its job properly," Mr. Heston said on ABC's "This Week."

White House Domestic Policy Adviser Bruce Reed, interviewed on Fox, said federal prosecution of gun crime has risen 16 percent since Mr. Clinton took office in 1993.

Mr. LaPierre disputed that figure. He said that increase followed a "50 percent drop" in federal gun crime prosecutions "since the Bush administration."

While the White House and the NRA continued to wrangle over gun control, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, said he might strip gun provisions from a Senate-passed $5 billion juvenile-justice bill that has been stalled for months. The Senate bill would require a 72-hour waiting period for firearms purchases at gun shows. But the NRA and House Republicans believe that waiting period should be only 24 hours.

"I'll tell you what I'm thinking of doing," Mr. Hatch said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "I'm thinking of stripping the gun provisions off that bill, and then having one major battle on guns and let the chips fall where they may."

House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, who appeared on NBC, said he does not believe gun-safety legislation requiring a three-day waiting period could pass the House. Such a requirement "would kill gun shows," he said, "and go after the Second Amendment."

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