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Clinton Lobbies for Gun Control

Wednesday, June 16, 1999; 8:40 a.m. EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House today accused House Republicans of trying to stymie gun restrictions while cutting money for new police officers, saying they are ``making the case for less cops and more guns.''

President Clinton, traveling in Europe, also tried to shore up support for gun-control legislation among wavering Democrats.

Clinton called two Democrats, Reps. Nicholas Lampson of Texas and Bob Etheridge of North Carolina, from Air Force One en route to Geneva, where he addressed the International Labor Organization, said White House spokesman Joe Lockhart. He said Clinton planned to call other Democrats.

``The president fully recognizes the political nature of this kind of vote,'' the spokesman said. ``He believes that these are sensible measures that the public demands, but he also remembers quite clearly'' that Democrats have ``suffered'' because of past gun votes.

``But I think the president believes that the country has shifted on these issues and it's important that people stand up,'' the spokesman said.

Lockhart said the ``very pervasive influence'' of the National Rifle Association over the past few weeks has watered down Senate-passed restrictions and opened new loopholes.

In calls to lawmakers, Clinton will tell them ``the public is expecting them to do the people's business and not the NRA's,'' Lockhart said.

He also took aim at Republican leaders for seeking to cut funding for Clinton's program to allow local communities to hire more officers.

``You have a situation where the Republican leadership is making the case for less cops and more guns and the Democratic leadership is making the case for more cops and less guns,'' Lockhart said.

``I think that's a powerful message that needs to be articulated as we move toward the vote.''

Clinton's effort to hold Democrats in line tracks attempts by the House's top Democrat, Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri, to persuade two senior Democrats not to join Republicans in sponsoring an NRA-backed gun proposal.

The NRA's chief lobbyist believes 40 to 50 Democrats may support the proposal backed by one of the senior Democrats, Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, and 15 to 20 Republicans may support a White House-backed version that cleared the Senate, with more undecided.

Dingell's proposal contains a provision on gun show background checks that is less restrictive than the Senate-passed measure.

House Democratic leaders have seized on the issue in the wake of the Colorado school shootings in April, believing it can help the party win control of the House in 2000.

Copyright 1999 The Associated Press