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Tuesday, April 27, 1999 Published at 23:06 GMT 00:06 UK

World: Americas

Clinton plans new gun controls

Columbine students remember their murdered schoolfriends

President Clinton has unveiled proposals for new gun controls in the wake of the Colorado high school shootings.

The BBC's Stephen Sackur: "A culture of teen violence"
He said the United States had a huge gun culture and people had to be persuaded that his proposals could save the lives of thousands of children.

Mr Clinton faces opposition from senior figures in his own Democratic party, as well as from the Republicans. Opponents point to the Second Amendment of the US constitution which enshrines the legal right to bear arms.

But the president said: "We have a cultural and political argument that says to defend Americans' right to reasonable hunting and sports shooting we have to defend the indefensible."

He said that if his proposed laws are passed future generations would look on today's gun control system as "unthinkable" comparing it to air travel without anti-terrorist measures.

[ image:  ]
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott agreed to give an opportunity for a debate and vote on the firearms proposals in about two weeks.

Twelve students and a teacher were killed last week at Columbine High School, Denver, by two teenagers armed with guns and home-made bombs.

It was the latest in a series of high-profile shootings at US schools.

Tightening restrictions

[ image: President Clinton unveiling his gun control plans]
President Clinton unveiling his gun control plans
Mr Clinton's suggestions include raising the age at which people can possess a handgun from 18 to 21, and holding negligent parents responsible for their children's actions.

Mr Clinton also wants restrictions on people buying guns at gun shows and background checks on people buying explosives.

President Clinton: "This is about protecting our children"
The White House called Mr Clinton's proposals "the most comprehensive gun legislation any administration has put forward in 30 years".

BBC Washington Correspondent Paul Reynolds says the proposals are not seen as radical but there is considerable opposition in Congress to more controls.

Mr Clinton will also face considerable opposition from the National Rifle Association, a powerful lobby which fights for the rights of gun owners.

Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, who represents South Dakota, where guns are popular among ranchers and sportsmen, was sceptical about passing any new restrictions.

Washington Correspondent Paul Reynolds: "An impassioned address"
On Monday he said: "I'm not sure that gun legislation is what we need."

Some gun supporters even want teachers armed as a deterrent and as a means of returning fire with fire.

Mr Clinton's gun law proposals also included child safety locks on all guns sold and a lifetime ban on gun ownership for juveniles who commit violent crimes.

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Gun Control Legislation: Remarks of the President and First Lady

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