Senate passes tough gun, youth gang measures

November 10, 1993|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- After senators told grim tales of gang violence in their states, they passed two measures yesterday expanding federal authority to prosecute crimes committed by gang members and making it a federal crime to sell a pistol to a minor.

Senate passage of the two measures by overwhelming margins was another indication that the overall $22.3 billion crime package Senate leaders hope to pass today would in

clude new federal initiatives on youth violence.

"There is a mood here," said Sen. Joseph R. Biden, D-Del., "that if someone came to the floor and said we should barb wire the ankles of anyone who jaywalks, I think it would pass."

Gun control measures are normally highly contentious, so the 99 to 1 vote to restrict the possession of handguns by juveniles was a remarkable affirmation of the growing fears that youth violence is out of control.

Congress has not enacted a significant gun control bill since the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Sen. Robert Kennedy in 1968.

"We are witnessing a tragedy of epidemic proportions," said Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis. "A 15-year-old Madison, Wis., girl shooting her teen-age boyfriend, the drive-by shooting of a 12-year-old Milwaukee boy, a 14-year-old Milwaukee boy shooting an elderly woman who was walking her dog, an Anacostia student shooting his 13-year-old classmate in the locker room of their jun

ior high, a 4-year-old D.C. girl killed in the cross-fire of a brutal gang shootout."

Lawmakers have also brought personal experiences to the debate, as Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., did last Thursday. "I have had my car stolen three times," he said. "I have had my house broken into. The fear affects all the conduct that we care about when you are talking about these words: Domestic tranquillity. And that fear, candidly, leads to more evil."

Late last night, the Senate voted 51-49 to turn back a Republican effort to kill an amendment to ban 19 kinds of semiautomatic assault rifles. It was not immediately clear whether the vote would spur a temporary or more serious Republican filibuster, or lead to passage of the amendment. Some Democratic leaders have said privately they would jettison the assault rifle-ban bill eventually rather than endanger final passage of the crime package.

House leaders said they expected the handgun bill to pass the House as well, even though their chamber has killed other handgun and assault-rifle controls passed by the Senate in recent years. But the expansion of federal authority to prosecute gang crime may meet resistance in the House.

The House has already passed a bill that would provide local and state governments with $200 million for drug rehabilitation and recreational activities for gang members, and the Senate is moving to go much further with measures intended to create boot camps around the country for less violent offenders.

Gang violence and other crime issues has also struck a chord with voters in the New York City, New Jersey and Virginia election campaigns this fall.

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