Clinton Proposes Gun Control Laws

Pleading with gun owners to get out the way of tighter firearms restrictions, President Clinton today rolled out a crime-fighting package that includes punishments for parents whose children commit gun crimes.

“I want to make a plea to everybody who is waiting for the next deer season in my home state to think about this in terms of what are reasonable obligations to the larger community of America,” Clinton said, flanked by prominent gun control supporters.

The crime package Clinton sends to Capitol Hill will propose several controversial restrictions on explosives and firearms, including raising the minimum age for handgun possession from 18 to 21.

Hoping national outrage at the recent mass shooting will help push his new crime package through a reluctant Congress, Clinton proposed holding parents liable for “knowingly or recklessly” letting a child commit a gun crime. The package also would force buyers of explosives to go through the same Brady Law background checks required for gun purchases.

Range of New Limits Proposed

Most of Clinton’s proposals for toughening firearms laws were shot down last year in Congress. But the administration hopes last week’s shootings have changed attitudes on Capitol Hill.

“The proposals that the president will be announcing are ones that we have been considering for some months,” Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder said this morning on ABCNEWS’ Good Morning America. “I think if we can get this legislation considered and get it passed, that would be a fitting tribute to the people who died in Colorado.”

But shortly after the president spoke today, as the Senate prepared to take a moment of silence in memory of the Littleton victims, Majority Leader Trent Lott signalled the Clinton plan faces a tough fight on Capitol Hill.

Cautioning against “knee-jerk” reaction to the shooting, Lott said, “I’m not sure the federal government can or should do something about [gun violence].”

“In the end, I think this problem is more societal,” Lott said.

Parents Under Scrutiny

Last week, two teenagers rampaging through their high school with guns and bombs killed 12 students and one teacher before turning their weapons on themselves.

Critics have questioned how the parents of the two dead suspects in the Littleton, Colo., shooting could not have known what their sons were plotting. Colorado Gov. Bill Owens this weekend said the families should be prosecuted if they can be proved negligent in ignoring what their children were doing.

But the White House says the parent liability proposal is not aimed at those parents, and Holder this weekend told CBS that prosecuting parents for their children’s actions is “a dangerous concept.”

Clinton has proposed holding parents accountable for their childrens’ actions in the past, but this new bill features tougher penalties.