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Senators try to break impasse over juvenile crime bill

Amendment passes requiring guns to come with safety devices

May 18, 1999
Web posted at: 6:14 p.m. EDT (2214 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, May 18) -- As the Senate continued debate Tuesday on a crime bill aimed at curbing juvenile violence, lawmakers worked behind the scenes to jumpstart the legislation bogged down by endless amendments and partisan bickering.

For their part Democrats say they are making progress on consolidating their amendments. Republicans, meanwhile, are accepting some gun control amendments like the provision to require that most handguns sold come with child safety locks.

That amendment, sponsored by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Herb Kohl (D-Wisconsin), was approved 78-20. It would require child safety devices, like trigger locks or sealed storage compartments, be included with handgun sales -- though it would be up to the owner to use the devices. The GOP-controlled Senate rejected a similar proposal 61-39 last July.

"After a week of back and forth, and forth and back over firearms, it's good to see a consensus developing on this common-sense amendment to keep handguns away from children," Kohl said.

The most "controversial" amendments that have been offered will be debated and voted on Wednesday, according to Hatch, the architect of the juvenile justice bill.

But even as senators worked toward an agreement on a deadline for the final vote and decreasing the number of amendments, each side is blaming the other for the legislative stalemate.

"The Democrats have some 40 amendments. As usual, they're playing politics. That's all this is. And they don't really want to get to a conclusion," Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) said.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) insisted Democrats are cooperating and that it is the Republicans who want the bill tabled: "They want to pull the bill in a clandestine way. They want to be able to pull the bill with our fingerprints on it. And we're not going to give them that opportunity."

Hatch's $5 billion juvenile justice bill to overhaul youth crime laws has been in the works for two years. It was rushed to the Senate floor in the aftermath of the school massacre in Littleton, Colorado.

Republicans failed in their morning effort to set aside the bill entirely and move on to the next piece of legislation -- a Y2K-related bill -- when a parliamentary move failed Tuesday to reach the 60 votes needed to succeed. The vote was 53-45. And earlier Lott threatened to halt debate if Democrats did not agree to a vote deadline by 6 p.m. EDT Tuesday, but has since indicated he would not follow through.

Senate Republicans are anxious to limit political damage following controversial gun control votes that took place last week.

But Democrats are not ready to let Republicans off the gun-control hook. "Republicans are uncomfortable talking about guns. But we're going to hold their feet to the fire. We're going to make sure we get this job done," Daschle said.

Meanwhile, sources tell CNN that Democrats want to resurrect the so-called "gun-show loophole" issue that proved to be so politically explosive last week by re-introducing their amendment which would require tough background checks before all sales at gun shows.

The Democratic amendment was rejected by the Senate last Wednesday. The outrage that resulted from that vote forced Republicans to quickly reverse themselves and instead pass a GOP version Friday that would require some background checks.

But Democrats charged the Republican amendment is not strict enough as it limits the gun-show checks to 24 hours instead of the normal, more thorough, three days; doesn't cover flea markets; and would repeal a law that requires pawnshops to do background checks when a customer reclaims a gun.

CNN's Bob Franken contributed to this report.

RELATED STORIES

Senate juvenile crime bill in trouble (5-17-99)

Negotiations continue despite Senate vote to close 'gun-show loophole' (5-14-99)

Senate Republicans backtrack on 'gun-show loophole' votes (5-13-99)

Senate refuses to close 'gun-show loophole' (5-12-99)

Clinton: New weapon controls can 'make a difference' (4-27-99)

Coming to clarity about guns (TIME, 4-26-99)


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83 percent of Americans favored background checks for buyers at gun shows (5-17-99) video Real: 28K | 80K, Windows Media: 28K | 80K

John King reports: Senate Republicans are revisiting the issue of regulating sales at gun shows (5-14-99) video Windows Media: 28K | 80K



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Tuesday, May 18, 1999

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