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Friday, August 13, 1999 Published at 08:42 GMT 09:42 UK

World: Americas

Pressure grows for tougher US gun laws

The sisters and mother of victim Joseph Ileto: 'Killed because of colour'

The Clinton Administration has given a strong sign that it is ready to take on America's powerful gun lobby.

America and the Gun
  • A civil liberties issue?
  • Recent legislation
  • What is the NRA?
  • Heston defends laws
  • US Attorney General Janet Reno has called on Congress to "seriously consider" tougher gun legislation following this week's shooting at a Los Angeles Jewish centre.

    Ms Reno called for a gun licensing system requiring owners to pass a test proving they were responsible.

    The BBC's Tom Carver reports: "Owners may have to pass a test to prove they're responsible"
    "It is common sense, pure common sense, to ensure that guns are only in the hands of those who know how to safely and lawfully use them and have the capacity and willingness to do so," she said at her weekly news conference.

    Her comments came on the day white supremacist Buford Furrow was charged with eight counts relating to the shooting spree at the Jewish community centre and the murder of a Filipino-American postal worker.

    [ image:  ]
    At the White House, President Bill Clinton said he strongly supported Ms Reno's remarks.

    Vice-president Al Gore added his voice to the debate, saying children and families needed more protection - not gun manufacturers.

    Restrictions which this time last year would have been considered politically unacceptable are being advocated by a growing number of politicians from left and right.

    Columbine student charged

    The debate is likely to resurface on Friday at a news conference given by students from the Columbine high school, where 13 people were killed by two pupils in April.

    The school is due to reopen on Monday.

    On Wednesday, a judge ruled that a 15-year-old boy accused of attacking six classmates at his high school a month after the Columbine massacre should be tried as an adult.

    [ image: Three children and two adults were wounded at the day-care centre]
    Three children and two adults were wounded at the day-care centre
    President Clinton has already said he wants guns to be registered like cars.

    When Congress returns from its summer recess, it is likely to come under pressure to pass some kind of gun reform.

    However, earlier this year it failed to agree on whether to allow background checks on people buying guns from trade shows.

    Death penalty

    The latest shooting incident has also raised concern over race-hate crimes.

    The BBC's Damian Fowler: "More information is emerging about Buford Furrow"
    Mr Furrow, 37, a known Nazi sympathiser, has confessed to killing postal worker Joseph Ileto partly because he was ''non-white''.

    The murder charge includes the allegation that it was racially motivated which means Mr Furrow could face the death penalty.

    [ image: Furrow is a known Nazi sympathiser]
    Furrow is a known Nazi sympathiser
    He has also been charged with five counts of attempted murder, including hate-crime allegations, and one of car-jacking.

    Mr Furrow is reported to have told the FBI that he wanted to issue a "wake-up call to America to kill Jews".

    President Clinton said the motives for the Los Angeles shootings appeared to be deeply disturbing.

    "I can only hope that this latest incident will intensify our resolve to make America a safer place, a place of healing across the lines that divide us," he added.

    'They all like me'

    At a brief court hearing, Mr Furrow, who was shackled and handcuffed, glanced at reporters in the courtroom and whispered loudly to his lawyer: "They all like me".

    US Attorney Alejandro Mayorkas said Mr Furrow would also face federal charges, although officials had not yet decided whether to bring federal hate-crime charges.

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