TALKING IT OVER
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON
March 8, 2000
How many more children will die at the hands of classmates before we say,
"Enough"? How many more funerals will we watch? How many more
people will be led away in handcuffs -- children one minute, murderers the
next - until Congress takes steps to end this epidemic? In the last two
and a half years, gunmen ranging in age from 6 to 18 shot and killed 25
students and two teachers on school property, wounding another 65. No one
will soon forget the scene of terrified teenagers fleeing Columbine High
School last April as two
classmates, who had spent months meticulously planning the carnage, killed
12 students and a beloved teacher. Or the image of middle-schoolers in Jonesboro,
Ark., gunned down as they heeded a false fire alarm to leave their building.
But these heinous crimes did not prepare Americans for the shooting last
week of 6-year-old Kayla Rolland. Kayla was apparently shot in the chest
by a 6-year-old classmate as they waited to go to the playground. Kayla's
assailant had been staying with his uncle in what police suspect was a "crack
house," where neighbors had reported nightly gunshots. It appears that
the boy shot Kayla with a stolen gun he discovered stashed under some blankets
in one of the bedrooms.
Upon hearing news of the tragic shooting, the President echoed the sentiments
of many Americans: "How did that child get that gun?" and "If
we have the technology today to put in these child safety locks, why don't
we do it?" This week, he convened a meeting of Congressional leaders to break the logjam
and urge them to pass common-sense gun legislation by April 20, the anniversary
of the Columbine shootings.
Eight months ago, after the Vice President cast the tie-breaking vote, the
Senate passed a juvenile crime bill that would have mandated child safety
locks, banned large ammunition clips, extended the Brady Law to violent
juveniles, and required background checks for gun show sales. If the Senate's
bill had made it to the President's desk, Kayla Rolland might be alive today.
Unfortunately, the Senate bill never even made it to a conference committee
The House passed a much weaker bill, and to this day, Republican leaders
have refused to schedule a conference to discuss a compromise bill. This
unconscionable failure to act is attributable to the National Rifle Association's
influence and threats to target and defeat members of Congress who support
any gun laws.
While Congress fails to act, gunfire continues to take the lives of a dozen
American children every day -- over 3,000 children dead since Columbine.
It is time for Congress to put America's children above the influence of
the NRA -- to reject their hateful tactics, and pass the common-sense gun
laws contained in the pending juvenile crime bill. In addition, the President
has asked for support to develop smart guns that can only be fired by the
adults who own them; to require new handgun buyers to first get a photo
license showing that they have passed the Brady background check and a gun
safety course; to hire 1,000 new gun prosecutors; and to hold adults responsible when they allow children
access to guns.
In a country of 270 million people, where it is estimated that there are
200 to 250 million handguns, we know that no law can stop every act of gun
violence. But as the Brady Law has proven, laws can make a difference. Brady
background checks have blocked gun purchases by 500,000 felons, fugitives
and stalkers. And gun crime is down by more than 35 percent since 1993.
There is something that you, too, can do: On Mothers' Day -- May 14 -- you
can join me in Washington for the Million Mom March, when we will either
celebrate the passage of sensible gun legislation, or protest Congressional
The inspiration for the Million Mom March came to Donna Dees-Thomases last
August as she was watching the news of the Granada Hills Jewish community
center camp shooting. She remembers her response that day: "The images
of terrified children being led in a line from the carnage that had just
taken place inside were too much to bear. They looked bewildered, confused
and scared to death. "One week later, Donna applied for a permit to
march on the Mall in Washington, D.C.
Donna is calling on mothers, grandmothers, stepmothers, godmothers, foster
mothers, future mothers, and all others willing to be "honorary mothers"
to become part of her crusade.
I hope you will join Donna, the President and me, as we call on Congress
to enact legislation that will take and keep guns out of the hands of criminals
Nothing less than the lives of our children is at stake.
If you'd like to learn more about the Million Mom March, go to
http://www.millionmommarch.com. The address is Million Mom March, P.O. Box
West Caldwell, N.J. 07007.
To find out more about Hillary Rodham Clinton and read her past columns,
visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2000 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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