ad info

 custom news
 Headline News brief
 daily almanac
 CNN networks
 on-air transcripts
 news quiz

CNN Websites
 video on demand
 video archive
 audio on demand
 news email services
 free email accounts
 desktop headlines

 message boards



 TIME CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics with Congressional Quarterly

On the defensive

Sensing disaster, a Littleton-addled G.O.P. tries to fix its fumble on gun control

By James Carney and John F. Dickerson/Washington

TIME magazine

In the post-Littleton debate about guns in America, Republicans learned last week that self-inflicted wounds are often the most painful. Which is why, hours after the Senate voted last Wednesday to make background checks on buyers at gun shows voluntary, some G.O.P. Senators sensed a p.r. disaster. A majority of Americans, including Republicans, favor tougher gun-control laws. On Thursday half a dozen Senators handed majority leader Trent Lott and the National Rifle Association's Senate point man, Larry Craig of Idaho, an amendment requiring gun-show checks. "It was a fait accompli," said a source familiar with the meeting.

The measure passed, but rather than claim victory, Democrats carped that even that G.O.P. fix didn't go far enough. Relishing the chance to exploit the Republicans' misstep, Clinton labeled the G.O.P. effort a "phony proposal." On Capitol Hill, Democrats accused Republicans of being tools of the N.R.A., a charge Utah Senator Orrin Hatch angrily denied. But one of Hatch's Republican colleagues told TIME that the G.O.P.'s initial gaffe "was an N.R.A.-orchestrated vote."

Amid all the posturing, the Senate did pass measures barring juveniles from possessing semiautomatic "assault" weapons and prohibiting the import of high-capacity ammunition clips. But by week's end the partisan bickering had so poisoned the chamber that the bill carrying all the gun-control measures was in danger of being pulled. That would leave some Republicans fretting over Democratic plans to paint the G.O.P. as gun-loving extremists in next year's elections. As a G.O.P. aide lamented, "If we didn't have guns, how else would Republicans shoot themselves in the foot?"


Cover Date: May 24, 1999

Search CNN/AllPolitics
          Enter keyword(s)       go    help

© 1999 Cable News Network, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.
Who we are.