- The Washington Times - Monday, March 13, 2000

President Clinton and the National Rifle Association brawled on national television yesterday over tougher gun laws and new NRA commercials that call the president a liar.

"I just think the NRA's knee-jerk reaction to every gun-safety measure is wrong… . They basically win through intimidation. People are scared of them," Mr. Clinton said yesterday on ABC's "This Week."

The president's comments his first Sunday talk-show interview in more than two years were gentle compared with what NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said about him on the same show.

"I've come to believe he needs a certain level of violence in this country. He's willing to accept a certain level of killing to further his political agenda. And the vice president, too I mean, how else can you explain this dishonesty we get out of the administration?" Mr. LaPierre said.

The fireworks started when Mr. LaPierre was asked about a new NRA advertising campaign in which actor Charleton Heston, the NRA president, accuses Mr. Clinton of wrongly portraying the gun owners' group as not being concerned about public safety.

In one ad, Mr. Heston says: "Mr. Clinton, when what you say is wrong, that's a mistake. When you know it's wrong, that's a lie."

Asked if he believes such tough ads are justified, Mr. LaPierre said, "I do."

He cited Mr. Clinton's opposition to a gun-control bill considered by the House last summer that was acceptable to the NRA. That bill "included mandatory safety locks with the sale of every gun, included checks at all gun shows on all gun sales with a 24-hour delay," included provisions that would "forever prohibit" violent juveniles from owning guns and would even have included … [an] import ban on high-capacity magazines," the NRA official said.

Mr. Clinton "killed" all that, Mr. LaPierre said, simply because the measure reduced the time allowed for background checks of handguns bought at gun shows from three days to one day. (The bill was defeated in the House.)

Mr. Clinton accused the NRA of crying "crocodile tears." He said he does not believe the ads will resonate with voters, "even with Moses reading the script." Mr. Heston played Moses in the film "The Ten Commandments."

In the ABC interview, which was taped Friday, the president argued that the NRA opposed both the Brady Law and the assault weapons ban. He said the organization was "ruthlessly brutal" in helping to defeat members of Congress who supported those bills.

Mr. Clinton said the NRA also opposes the 72-hour waiting period he believes is necessary to ensure that criminals and deranged persons can't buy guns at gun shows.

The president acknowledged that background checks can be completed in a day for 90 percent of those who seek to buy guns at gun shows.

"But for those you can't check because there's some problem with it, we ought to be able to hold them up for three days because the ones that don't check out within 24 hours are 20 times more likely to be rejected because of a problem in the background," Mr. Clinton said.

Mr. LaPierre reiterated NRA complaints about lax enforcement of existing federal gun laws by the Clinton administration.

And he charged that Mr. Clinton is resurrecting the gun-control issue now to try to boost Vice President Al Gore's presidential campaign. "The pollsters and consultants are telling them: Scare suburban women," said Mr. LaPierre.

Mr. Clinton said Mr. Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the prospective Republican presidential nominee, "have dramatically different positions on the whole issue of guns, and I think it ought to be a big issue in this … election."

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