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The BBC's Philippa Thomas in Washington
"Gun control could well become a hot topic later this year in November's presidential election"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 7 March, 2000, 23:01 GMT
Clinton sets sights on gun control
Columbine High School memorial
Roses for the Columbine massacre victims
President Clinton has challenged members of Congress to produce tougher gun control laws by 20 April, the anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre.

Mr Clinton met congressional leaders at the White House on Tuesday, and with the mother of the six-year-old who was shot dead by a classmate last week.

Kayla Rowland
Kayla Rowland: Shot dead by a classmate
Yet the chances of tougher laws passing through the Republican-controlled Congress appeared to be slim.

The lawmakers left the meeting without an agreement to restart negotiations over the juvenile justice bill, which contains new measures to keep guns out of the hands of children and criminals.

"How many people have to get killed before we do something?" Mr Clinton asked.

Background checks

President Clinton chided lawmakers for failing to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, which stalled last summer.

Columbine killers on security camera
The Columbine killers turned their guns on themselves
Senator Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, expressed frustration at the deadline.

He suggested that the gun provisions could be removed in order to win passage of the bill's other components.

The key hold-up was a provision in the Senate bill that would require people purchasing firearms at gun shows to wait three days for a background check.

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  • The House of Representatives version would require only a 24-hour waiting period.

    Mr Clinton supports the tougher version.

    "I know the lobby is cracking up pressure on Congress again, but when first graders shoot first graders, it's time for Congress to do what's right for America's families," Mr Clinton said.

    School shootings

    The president called the meeting last week, after a six-year-old Michigan boy shot and killed his classmate, Kayla Rowland.

    Memorial for Kayla
    Mourners lit a candle for each year of Kayla's life
    Mr Clinton met the victim's mother, Veronica McQueen, in private on Tuesday.

    There have been many other school shootings in the US, but this was the first attack by a child so young.

    In April 1999, two teenagers went on the rampage at Columbine High School in Denver, Colorado, killing 12 of their fellow students and a teacher before taking their own lives.

    One month later, a student opened fire at Heritage High School near Conyers, Georgia, injuring six schoolmates before being taken into custody.

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    See also:

    01 Mar 00 |  Americas
    Boy killer found gun in bedroom
    02 Mar 00 |  Americas
    'Racial motive' to shooting spree
    01 Mar 00 |  Americas
    Controlling America's gun culture
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