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Special Event

President Clinton Comments on New Maryland Gun Control Law

Aired April 11, 2000 - 12:02 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: We begin with the latest attempt to curb gun violence. President Clinton is in Annapolis, Maryland applauding passage of one of the toughest gun laws in the country. You're looking right now at a live picture of Maryland Governor Parris Glendening.

The bill is being signed into law today. It contains measures Mr. Clinton seeks on the national level.

CNN White House correspondent Major Garrett is following this story -- Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jeanne, the president will attend a signing ceremony today. But, slightly unusually, he won't be the one wielding the pen.

Let's listen to the president now.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much, Governor and Mrs. Glendening, Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Secretary of State Willis (ph), Attorney General Curran (ph), Mr. Speaker, President Miller.

I also want to acknowledge the members of Congress who are here who are on the right side of this fight: Senator Mikulski, Representative Morella and Representative Wynn. You can be very proud of what all three of them are doing in Congress this year.

(APPLAUSE)

I thank the members of the legislature, the overwhelming numbers of Democrats and the brave Republicans who joined you to pass this legislation.

I thank the students from the Young Kids Against Violence and the Students Together Against Guns from Largo and Potomac schools for their work.

And I want to say a little more about each of you in a moment.

Let me say, I think it is fitting that we are here today in this magnificent old place where our forbears walked the halls more than 200 years ago. It's a site of firsts. Speaker mentioned George Washington resigning his commission just a few steps from here.

The State House was also the site of the ratification of the Treaty of Paris, which officially put an end to the Revolutionary War and marked the birth of our new nation. Today we are trying to end another kind of war, an ongoing struggle to reduce the staggering toll of violence on our citizens and especially on our children.

The Maryland legislature, once again, has made history and I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. I came up here today more than anything else to say thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

I applaud, first, your governor. I remember after I first met him -- you know, he's sort of low-key, you have to keep listening to Parris Glendening, but I must say, he wears well. The more I watched him, you know -- I remember once a couple of years ago, I was talking to people at the White House about what was going on in the states about a completely different issue and I said, "You know, it is astonishing, almost everything I have tried to accomplish as president, Maryland has been out there on the forefront of change ahead of the other states in virtually every area."

(APPLAUSE)

And I might say in the area of gun safety, it's worth pointing out for the record that Maryland has already banned assault weapons, cheap handguns known as Saturday Night Specials, already limited handgun sales to one per month. And with this new law, you are again leading the way.

Last year, California passed legislation to limit handgun sales to one a month, to ban junk guns, new generations of assault weapons. Last week, Massachusetts began enforcing consumer product safety rules for guns, to ban junk guns, and to adopt devices to prevent children from firing guns.

Tomorrow, I'm going to Colorado to support a citizen ballot initiative to close the gun show loophole and require background checks on all gun sales.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, I want to -- we ought to talk for a moment about how this came to be. I was looking at Mike Miller up here, and I've had the privilege to know him well for many years now. I know what kind of district he represents. This can't have been an easy fight for him.

I heard the speaker talking. I used to go down to the Eastern Shore when I was student at Georgetown. I had the privilege of spending a little time at Camp David since I've been president and traveling in the neighborhood. I know that all of Maryland is Baltimore, and I know what the speaker was saying, I know how hard this vote was for a lot of you.

And I know something else too, none of us want to really pay tribute to the people who are truly responsible for us all being here today. We thanked each other, but the truth is, we're all here because too many children got killed.

And I was so moved by what Kathleen said, and I couldn't help thinking how proud her father would be of her today.

(APPLAUSE)

MESERVE: You've been listening to President Bill Clinton. He's speaking in Annapolis, Maryland where a gun control law is being signed into law today, a law that would mandate built-in safety locks on all new handguns. It also would prohibit violent juvenile offenders from owning a handgun until the age of 30.

Major Garrett is at the White House for us today.

Major, why did the president take this extraordinary step of traveling to Annapolis for this signing of state legislation?

GARRETT: Well, White House officials say the president is going to use each and every opportunity he can find, whether it's here in Washington or across the country, to spread what they consider to be a very balanced message on the question of gun safety and gun control. The president very much likes the Maryland legislation because it addresses the gun issue from two fronts: gun safety, two provisions dealing with making handguns safer so children can't use them to injure themselves or others, and two provisions dealing with law enforcement, tougher penalties for people who possess illegal hand guns or use them in commission of a crime.

The president, as he mentioned, will also travel to Colorado tomorrow to speak on behalf of a statewide initiative to deal with closing, in that state, the gun show loophole, a matter that has stalled legislation on gun control in Congress for months. The president's going to use today's speech and tomorrow's speech to press Congress again and again to deal with that issue -- Jeanne.

MESERVE: Major Garrett at the White House.

These event, of course, leading up to the April 20 anniversary of the Columbine shootings.

Joining us now is Congressman Bob Ney, a Republican of Ohio.

Thanks so much for joining us today.

REP. BOB NEY (R), OHIO: Thank you.

MESERVE: We would expect the president today to also point out the failure of this Congress to pass gun control legislation. Will there be any gun control legislation signed this session?

NEY: Well, I don't believe that we're going to enact gun control legislation. I think the Congress, today as we speak, is taking the right step with Congressman Bill McCollum's bill, which is $100 million. And it simply says, as the states cooperate to make a mandatory sentence for those who commit violent crime, who are involved with drugs and who misuse weapons, you know, that bill says that we're going to lock them up.

And so I think the Congress is addressing the problem. But as far as zeroing in on trigger locks and passing what I call a burglar protection act where we would actually expect the American, prudent citizen to say, excuse me as you're burglarizing my house. Wait a minute till I can unlock the gun to defend my family.

Now, we can talk about gun education and gun safety -- and we want to protect children. I have children. We obviously want to do that. But this Congress is going to do it the right way, I predict, which is to do the McCollum bill and to make sure that those who are committing crimes are locked away.

So the president's really got a smoke screen for gun control. We want to really do something about the situation through enforcement.

MESERVE: Well, what people on the other side of the issue from you would say is that this is another indication that the National Rifle Association is in the driver's seat when it comes to Congress. Is it?

NEY: You know, you hear that over and over, and the NRA has the right to express their opinion and Gun Control Inc. has the right to express their opinion. But people, I think, feel deeply about this issue. We all want safety. We all want a well-being for our children in this country. But the fact remains, we're broadcasting today from a total gun-control-ban city where there is carnage, as I call it, through gun shootings, but you can't even protect yourself in this city of Washington, D.C. Gun laws since 1968 in California.

So, you know, they keep throwing the smoke screen at the NRA, but people feel very, I think, strongly about this issue and want to do the right thing. And a gun control agenda is not going to do the right thing. But to take those law-breakers and put them away and enforce the existing thousands of laws is the right way to do it.

MESERVE: Congressman Bob Ney, Republican of Ohio, thanks for joining us with your perspective.

NEY: Thank you.

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