- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2000

The Million Mom March did nothing to pressure Sen. Orrin G. Hatch to call a meeting of a joint House-Senate conference committee considering new gun regulations.

"Certainly we're influenced by sincere people, regardless of whether they agree or disagree with us, but [the right to bear arms] is an enumerated right that we have to be very reluctant to change voluntarily," the Utah Republican said yesterday.

Mr. Hatch's committee has been deadlocked for almost a year on a package of gun regulations, particularly details of a proposal to make all gun-show buyers subject to the same background checks required at gun shops.

Shortly after Mr. Hatch's remarks to The Washington Times, Democratic leaders threatened to use parliamentary rules to bring the Senate to a halt for the rest of the year unless Republican leaders grant them a new vote on gun control.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, denied the Democratic maneuver was designed to head off a vote on U.S. policy in Kosovo, a debate that is likely to be embarrassing to the president.

"A number of us had discussions ever since Sunday about how to respond to the Million Mom March," he told reporters after Republican leaders stopped all debate to consider the Democratic threat. "Many of us were very moved by what they said, how they organized, by the extraordinary personal stories that they shared with us."

Mr. Hatch has long said he will not call a meeting of the committee, which met once in August, until he sees some sign of compromise emerging on the contentious details of the gun show measure.

He said yesterday that he has not seen any sign of compromise from Democrats. Nor is he afraid of a public relations backlash because of the march, which brought hundreds of thousands of women to Washington on Mother's Day demanding stronger gun-control laws.

"I think we have to do what we believe, what we think is right," Mr. Hatch said.

Other pro-gun-rights legislators agreed, saying they feel no pressure from the march.

"The members up here can see through the grandstanding… . I think people up here get kind of tired of these publicity stunts, to be quite honest with you," said Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican and a board member for the National Rifle Association.

Rep. Tom Tancredo, who represents the district where the Columbine High School massacre occurred last year, said the march will have little effect because its goals have been unclear. The organizers were demanding a licensing and registration system for guns, but the goals of the mass of marchers were not well articulated, he said.

"What exactly is it they are expecting us to do and they will spank us for if we don't do?" the Colorado Republican said. "Mothers are supposed to be a little more directive with their kids."

Rep. John D. Dingell of Michigan, leader of a dissident group of Democrats who oppose new gun regulations, said he agrees with the marchers only on the notion that more needs to be done to enforce the laws against gun violence.

"Now as to whether we need additional legislation, I tell you I don't know I am not aware of any that would help without enforcing the laws on the books," said Mr. Dingell, a former board member of the NRA.

Enforcement of existing laws has been a consistent theme of opponents of new gun regulations pushed by the president and Democratic leaders. Legislators who support gun rights say there is no need to counter the message of the Million Mom March because the enforcement message is working so well.

"Nothing this administration has suggested would have stopped Columbine or any of the other school shootings," Mr. Hatch said.

"It's a straightforward message," Mr. Barr said. "It's understandable, it's accurate and you don't need to be grandstanding on it you just keep hammering away at it."

Organizers of the Million Mom March have vowed to turn their movement into a political force. They began Monday by testifying before a hearing organized by Senate Democratic leaders.

Mr. Hatch's committee is considering gun regulations as part of a sweeping $1.5 billion juvenile justice bill, which offers states grants in return for toughening punishments for juvenile criminals.

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