U.S. backs off plan to allow Russian guns into the country

October 04, 1994|By Cox News Service

WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration backed off yesterday on a plan to open the door to millions of cheap Russian-made guns.

The State Department, citing a "dramatic increase" in the potential flow of firearms into the United States, is recommending denial of requests from U.S. gun dealers to import as many as 7.6 million pistols and rifles from Russia and other republics of the former Soviet Union.

The administration had quietly considered granting the permits for the past few months. At the White House summit between President Clinton and President Boris N. Yeltsin last week, Russian officials pressed for selling their surplus military weaponry.

Among the guns to be imported would be semiautomatic Makarov pistols, the weapon of choice of KGB spies, and a semiautomatic rifle made by Kalashnikov.

Arms merchants have applied for 250 licenses to import both the guns and a total of 7 billion rounds of ammunition, for a potential sales value of $1 billion.

Reports that the import licenses were under serious consideration, first disclosed in the Los Angeles Times last week, spurred charges of hypocrisy against Mr. Clinton, who only a few weeks ago signed a crime bill amid vows to reduce the flow of arms onto American streets. That bill included a ban on 19 assault-type weapons.

Administration officials vigorously denied that the United States was offering the small arms sales as an incentive to Mr. Yeltsin to stop selling armaments to Iran.

From 1989 to 1993, the Russians sold about 18,000 guns in the United States.

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