Gun issue brings Senate to standstill

Tuesday, May 16th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Two days after the Million Mom March for gun control, Democrats on Tuesday brought the Senate to a standstill
over the issue and won a promise for a pair of politically sensitive votes on Wednesday.

Democratic Leader Tom Daschle unexpectedly injected the topic into debate on routine spending legislation, and told reporters he had informed Majority Leader Trent Lott, "you will not finish this bill this week or maybe next week" without allowing votes on gun control.

Lott promised votes on Wednesday on two nonbinding measures involving plans to reduce juvenile crime. Democrats had sought
resolutions commending the Million Mom March this past weekend, but the GOP measure does not mention the march.

The gun control issue has been simmering for a year. In the wake of the 1999 student massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado, the Senate cleared legislation to crack down on juvenile crime that included White House-backed restrictions on sales at gun shows and a requirement for safety devices to be sold with guns.

Republicans broke ranks on the issue, and Vice President Al Gore cast a tie-breaking vote on May 20 to clear the measure over opposition by the GOP leadership.

The House version of the bill did not include the gun control provisions, though, and negotiations on a compromise have been
stalled for months.

The Million Mom March was designed to pressure Congress to act on gun control, and Daschle went to the Senate floor at the first
available opportunity since then to raise the issue.

He proposed a non-binding measure commending those involved in the march, and declaring that Congress should "immediately pass" legislation that includes the gun control provisions that cleared the Senate a year ago.

Lott immediately used a parliamentary device that suspended proceedings on the floor for several hours. Republicans have 10 first-term senators on the ballot this fall, and his maneuvering appeared designed in part to shelter them from difficult votes.

But when Lott returned to the floor, it was Daschle's turn to use the Senate rule book to his advantage. He forced a series of time-consuming votes that made clear he could tie up proceedings for hours, even days at a time, when Republicans must work on must-pass spending measures.

Finally, Lott produced a rival Republican proposal, and agreed to permit votes on Wednesday.

The GOP measure, also non-binding, includes no mention of the Million Mom March or gun control. Instead, it says the "Clinton
administration has failed to protect law-abiding citizens by inadequately enforcing federal firearms laws."

It also calls for passage of a "comprehensive approach to juvenile crime" including better enforcement, upgrading the national instant criminal background checks and providing grants to states to impose mandatory sentences.

For his part, Daschle also told reporters that 12 children a day die to gun violence. "We will begin reading their names on a daily basis for the Senate (and) to the extent possible we will tell some of their stories," he promised.