Clinton endorses Maryland gun control legislation
ANNAPOLIS, Maryland (CNN) -- President Bill Clinton on Tuesday used a new gun control bill passed in Maryland to renew his challenge that Congress pass similar legislation by April 20, the first anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting.
Clinton endorsed a bill passed by the Maryland House that would make the state the first to require new handguns be equipped with built-in locks that allow no one but authorized users to fire them.
President Clinton spoke Tuesday at the White House
The locks will be required by 2003 under the bill approved Monday night by the Maryland House of Delegates. Until then, all guns sold will have to be equipped with external trigger locks, beginning in October.
Speaking at a separate White House event, Clinton said the Maryland bill, along with new restrictions in Massachusetts and a ballot initiative in Colorado to close the so-called "gun show loophole," are "great efforts."
But he said federal legislation is needed to require child safety locks on guns, close the loophole that allows sales at gun shows without background checks, and ban the importation of large-capacity ammunition clips that "make our assault weapons ban a mockery."
The president noted the efforts in the states were bipartisan in nature, citing Colorado, which he said is becoming mostly Republican in terms of voter registration yet the ballot initiative is ahead in the polls.
"This should not be a partisan issue in Washington, D.C., if it is not a partisan issue in the rest of the country," he said.
Clinton said he called Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening (D) to congratulate him on the bill's passage. Glendening said he was eager to sign the bill, predicting that within 18 months, six to 12 states will enact similar legislation.
"This bill will takes a giant step toward creating safer communities not just in Maryland but across the country," Glendening said.
"I predict that it will be almost impossible for gun makers to manufacture guns without internal safety locks. The liability simply will be too great," the governor said.
Opponents, representing largely rural and conservative suburban areas, unsuccessfully tried 10 times to amend the bill in hopes of defeating it. Opponents said the built-in locks would embolden burglars and would-be rapists.
"The bad guys know you're not going to have time to get that lock off," said Delegate Carmen Amedori, a Republican. "I don't want another kid to die, but I don't want more women raped. ... I don't want my 76-year-old father's home getting invaded."
It would ban anyone convicted of a violent crime as a juvenile from possessing a handgun until age 30 and require gun manufacturers to provide a ballistic fingerprint of shell casings of all new handguns. It also imposes five-year mandatory minimum sentences on some convicted felons caught illegally possessing a handgun. Several of those provisions mirror those included in the recent legal settlement between nearly 30 cities, the federal government and gun maker Smith & Wesson.
The National Rifle Association has attacked the bill in television ads since Friday. The 30-second ads feature Glendening as he fumbled while trying to open a push-button combination lock on a handgun during a news conference -- and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend chuckling over the mishap.
On Monday, Massachusetts announced that it would enforce requirements that guns come with safety warnings and tamper-resistant serial numbers. Semiautomatic handguns are now required to include an indicator that shows whether a bullet is in the chamber.
The regulations also use consumer-protection rules to ban cheap guns known as "Saturday Night Specials" and require childproof locks on any gun sold in the state.
Thirty-four other states have passed legislation that would allow them to regulate handguns as they would any other consumer product, but Massachusetts is the first to actually impose such regulations.