Students lobby Congress for gun control

Visitors from Colorado get mixed reception on Hill

July 16, 1999|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton joined about 90 high school students from Denver yesterday in urging Congress to pass gun-control legislation that faces obstacles on Capitol Hill.

"For the past three months, the gun lobby has been calling the shots on Capitol Hill," Clinton said during a South Lawn appearance with the students. "Now it's time for Congress to listen to the lobbyists who truly matter -- our children, the people who will be most affected by what is or is not done by the Congress."

The students came to Washington to lobby Congress on gun control while new hurdles are delaying action on even a handful of relatively modest measures.

While Republican leaders insist they expect some proposals -- including requiring safety locks on handguns and banning the import of big ammunition clips -- ultimately to be sent to Clinton, they so far have been stymied in efforts to even begin negotiations on the final version of the bill.

The student visit was organized by SAFE (Sane Alternative as to the Firearms Epidemic), a Colorado gun-control advocacy group formed after the Columbine High School shootings in Littleton, Colo., that left 15 dead, including the two killers.

After meeting with Clinton at the White House, the students went to Capitol Hill.

"We demand that Congress put aside partisan politics and pass reasonable gun-control legislation," Ben Gelt, an organizer of the lobbying effort, said at a news conference with lawmakers who favor gun control.

"We will not go quietly into the night," David Winkler, another organizer, added. "We are the students of today and the voters of next year."

When the students fanned out across Capitol Hill to lobby other lawmakers, they got a mixed reception. Although they were greeted warmly by House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, a Missouri Democrat, they were rebuffed when they approached Michigan Democratic Rep. John D. Dingell, a leading ally of the National Rifle Association, who refused to talk to the students.

In the three months since the Columbine High shootings led state legislators around the country to demand tighter gun laws, little has changed.

Only a few states -- most notably, California -- put more controls on guns. Most states did nothing. Some even loosened gun restrictions.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 7/16/99

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