President Clinton and his fellow Democrats in Congress can get gun legislation if they really want it instead of a political issue, said Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, on NBCs April 16 edition of "Meet the Press."
Three days earlier, Senate Democrats said they would "consider all procedural and parliamentary options" to restart negotiations on gun control, even if it means blocking some other legislation. Clinton also beat on congressional Republicans while he traveled to Maryland and Colorado as part of his gun control campaign.
Senate Democrats said they were angry that the legislation is stuck in a conference committee as the first anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings neared. A Senate gun control package had passed in May last year as part of a Juvenile Justice bill when Vice President Al Gore voted to break a tie.
"Our message is simple," said Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), who sponsored the language that is the core of the Senate gun measure. "There is nothing on the Senate schedule more pressing than saving childrens lives. We are sick and tired of delay and we arent going to take it anymore."
Lautenberg was one of 10 Senate Democrats who detailed their concerns in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi.
"Its certainly regrettable that the Democrats would try to use the Columbine tragedy as a news hook to further their political aims," said Lott spokesman John Czwartacki after the letter was made public.
Czwartacki accused House Democrats of rejecting GOP-backed gun control measures. "Today we could be one step closer. These could all be law today if Democrats had not decided to put politics before progress."
Clinton and the Democrats have said they want the Senate-House conference committee to vote on the measure, but what they want is the Senate bill. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who appeared with Hyde on "Meet the Press," said the House should simply approve the Lautenberg language rather than craft a compromise. Hydes immediate reply was, "No way."
Hyde said Lautenbergs legislation was unacceptable to most Republicans, and to Democrats like Rep. John Dingell (D-MI). He said the key sticking points were Lautenbergs overly broad definition of a gun show and his requirement that records of gun show sales approved by a NICS check be kept by the government.
"We see no problem with keeping records for the people who are denied," Hyde said. "But keeping records on those buyers who are approved amounts to a national registration scheme," he argued.
Schumer blamed Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee for refusing to hold conference committee meetings. But Hyde defended Hatch and said that if the Democrats really wanted gun legislation rather than a campaign issue, they have to give on the definition of a gun show and on the record keeping.
Return to Archive Index