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This is taken from Capitol Hill Blue, June 5, 1999
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Clinton goes ballistic over gun control

Associated Press Writer

Tweaked about whether his gun control proposals were tough enough, President Clinton gave a nationally televised finger-wagging discourse on politics as the art of the possible.

The president defended measures moving through Congress in the wake of the Littleton, Colo., school shootings as the strongest steps the Republicans might accept.

``How foolish would it be for me to be debating this issue when these things are before the Congress that can save children's lives?'' he said. ``I should blow by them because they're not enough? I don't think so.''

Clinton and his wife, Hillary, brought their campaign against youth violence to the nation's breakfast tables Friday in a session with teen-agers -- some from schools made infamous by shootings -- broadcast by ABC's ``Good Morning America.''

Anchor Charlie Gibson opened the broadcast from the White House Roosevelt Room with a one-on-one interview with Clinton. He quoted an unnamed Clinton ally as saying that after the Colorado shootings, Clinton ``had a chance to roar and he meowed.''

Clinton reacted strongly.

``Look, let's join the real world here,'' he said, narrowing his eyes and wagging his finger at Gibson. ``You want an honest conversation, let's have an honest conversation. I am the first president who ever took on the NRA,'' the National Rifle Association. ``I got my party in Congress to stand with me on the Brady bill.''

Clinton pounded his left fist into his right palm.

``For you to say I shouldn't take what I can get and instead I should ask for things that I am absolutely positive will be defeated in the Congress is quite wrong,'' he said.

The Senate last month passed a bill that requires mandatory background checks for firearm sales at gun shows and pawn shops and child-safety locks on all new handguns. Vice President Al Gore cast the tie-breaking vote on the amendment requiring the background checks.

The administration believes it has agreement with House Republicans for background checks on sales of explosives and increasing from 18 to 21 the legal age for owning handguns and assault-style weapons.

But it lost a bid for quick House passage of the entire Senate package before the Memorial Day recess.

``They went home before taking action. Why?'' Clinton asked. ``To give the NRA time to lobby them, to water down what was passed.''

Clinton deferred action on more controversial gun controls, such as a mandatory three-day waiting period for all handgun purchases and limiting gun purchases to one per month.

``Should we do more? Should people ought to have to register guns like they register their cars? Do I think that? Of course I do,'' Clinton said. ``But I tell you, the American people may have one opinion, but they elected the Congress and the Congress doesn't have that opinion.''

Following the president's one-on-one interview in the Cabinet Room, he and Mrs. Clinton sat down with students from Littleton, Springfield, Ore., West Paducah, Ky., Conyers, Ga., and other areas for an uninterrupted discussion of youth violence.

One student, Albert Smith, questioned the president skeptically. ``How spectacular is this legislation and why will it make a difference?'' Another student in the discussion was Missy Jenkins, who was paralyzed from the waist down on Dec. 1, 1997, when a classmate opened fire inside her West Paducah high school.

Mrs. Clinton beseeched kids to ask questions and demand safe surroundings. ``If you guys are going to a party, make sure there are no guns around,'' she said.

The first lady also asked students to speak out for tougher gun controls. ``There's no reason why a lot of you who are about to be or are already 18 can't let your voices be heard too.''

The Clintons viewed ``Good Morning America'' and its estimated 7 million viewers as an opportunity to ``talk directly to families as they get ready for another school day,'' White House spokesman Jake Siewert said.