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Special Event

Clinton Comments on Gun Control Issues

Aired March 2, 2000 - 12:50 p.m. ET


ROGER COSSACK, CNN ANCHOR: We are now going to take you to the White House, where President Clinton is expected to answer many questions today, some of which may have to do with his call for a gun summit with members of the House and Senate next week.

Let's listen.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... concerned with the health of people throughout the world.

The minister of health from Uganda. The leaders of the pharmaceutical industry and biotech industry and the foundation community in our country who are profoundly interested in joining forces to fight against diseases that kill both people and progress in the world's poorest countries; diseases like AIDS, TB and malaria, each of which claim over a million lives a year, and others as well.

We agree that the solution must include the development and the delivery of effective vaccines. That's how we got rid of smallpox and come close to eliminating polio.

So today we're beginning a partnership to eradicate the leading infectious killers of our time, speeding the delivery of existing vaccines and getting to the heart of the problem: the lack of incentives for private industry to invest in new vaccines for people who simply can't afford to buy them.

I have attempted to put a comprehensive package on the table so that the United States can do its part to change this; a billion- dollar tax credit to speed the invention of vaccines; a $50 million contribution to a global fund to purchase vaccines; a substantial increase in research at the National Institutes of Health. I've asked the World Bank to dedicate more lending to improve health, and Mr. Wolfensohn's been very forthcoming here today and I thank him for that.

The private sector is also responding to this challenge, and I want to thank them and recognize the commitments that have been announced here today.

Merck is committing to develop an AIDS vaccine not just for strains of the virus that affect wealthy nations, but for strains that ravage the poorest nations as well. This is profoundly important. It's also donating a million doses of hepatitis B vaccine to those who need it the most.

American Home Products will donate 10 million doses of a vaccine to prevent deadly strains of pneumonia and meningitis in children.

SmithKline Beecham will expand its malaria vaccine program and begin new vaccine trials in Africa and will donate drugs worth a billion dollars to eliminate elepantyiasis -- elephantiasis, sorry -- which is a painful and potentially very crippling and disfiguring tropical disease.

Venice Pasteur (ph) will donate 50 million doses of polio vaccine to five war-torn African nations.

This is a very important beginning. It will save lives and make it clear that we're serious.

But all of us agree there is more to do. We have to first build on the bipartisan support that now exists in our Congress to enact the research and experimentation tax credit and the tax credit that we propose for this specific purpose and to get the funding increases through.

I will go to the G-8 meeting in Okinawa this summer to urge our partners to take similar steps.

And so, let me say, I am profoundly grateful now because this is my first opportunity to be with you when you can say something back.

I also want to just say a word about the terrible shooting yesterday in Pennsylvania, which followed the killing of a 6-year-old child the day before in Michigan.

These two incidents were very troubling and they have individual causes and explanations and doubtless will require individual responses. But they do remind us that there is still too much danger in this country and that for more than eight months now, Congress has been sitting on the common sense gun safety legislation to require child safety locks, to close the gun show loophole and the background bill law and to ban the importation of large ammunition clips.

I have said before, I will say again today, I'm going to invite the leaders of this conference down to the White House to talk about what we can do to break the log jam.

I also think we should go further. We ought to invest in smart gun technology. We talked about investing in a vaccine for -- we're not too far from being able to develop technology which could change all the handguns so that they could only be fired by the adults who purchase them and that would make a big difference. Apparently, the child who was killed was killed by another child with a stolen gun. If we had child trigger-locks on all the guns, it wouldn't have happened.

And finally, I think that it's long, long past time to license the purchases of handguns in this country. Cars are -- Car owners are licensed, all drivers are licensed whether they own a car or not. I think it's time to do that. So I hope that we will see some action.

But the most important thing now, thinking about this child is, if we had child trigger locks on all these guns, we could keep them alive. So I hope Congress will break the log jam and I'm going to invite the conferees down here to do it.

Let me finally say, again, this is a truly astonishing turnout of people around this table, and together, if we work on it over the next few years, we can literally save the lives of millions of people and it couldn't be done without the presence of all these people and I'm very grateful to them.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Mr. President, if legislation was sent to you that ended the business of ammunition clips and included safety locks without -- did not include the gun show loophole, would you veto that?

CLINTON: Well, I don't know. I think they'd have a very hard time explaining why they did it.

Let me remind you, when I signed the Brady bill, and the NRA opposed it, they said, Oh, this Brady bill won't do any good now because criminals don't buy their guns at gun shops, they buy their guns at gun shows and these urban flea markets, or on the sly, one-on- one. They never -- they don't use gun shops.

Well, come to find out 500,000 people couldn't get a handgun because they were felons, fugitives or stalkers, and it's a safer country because of it.

Now, that we want to extend the background check to the gun shows, they say the people that -- they say the criminals don't use the gun shows, even though five years ago they said they did. There is no logical reason to let these gun shows off the hook on the background checks. And the technology is there to do it without causing a total breakdown.

And I suggested, if they're worried about the inconvenience to the buyers and the sellers, they could always have these things out in the country somewhere. They could always deposit the weapon with the local sheriff's department while they are waiting to do the background check.

There are all kinds of fixes for the alleged problems here, and there's no reason not to do the -- the Brady bill is saving people's lives and keeping guns out of the wrong hands. But we do need the child trigger locks. That child would be alive today if that gun had had a child trigger lock on it that the other 6-year old child could not have fired.

And that -- we just need to -- we've got to have it. We've got to have it.

The accidental death rate of children by guns in this country is nine times higher than the rate of the next 25 biggest industrial economies combined.

I mean, that's something that we ought to -- if you forget about the intentional killing. Just look at the accidents, we've got to do this. And we need to do it tomorrow. We need to do it as quickly as we can.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. President, what are your specific instructions to the (OFF-MIKE). And what do you expect to happen?

CLINTON: We've handled that in the appropriate way, I think, through Secretary Summers. And I -- let me say -- I want there to be a European director of the IMF. I will not support an American candidate, even though I have enormous respect for Mr. Fisher (ph) and I'm gratified that the African nations expressed their support for him. He's an enormously able man.

COSSACK: We have been listening to President Clinton talking directly from the White House.

That is all the time we have for BURDEN OF PROOF today. Stay tuned for "CNN TODAY," and we'll go to them now.


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