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From the archives: Clinton looking for new ways to curb guns, violence

WASHINGTON - This story was originally published in Newsday on Dec. 9, 1993.

Decrying the Long Island Rail Road shootings as "a terrible human tragedy," President Bill Clinton said yesterday that the United States should consider more drastic and far-reaching measures to control guns, contain violence and fight crime.

"My own view is, this thing has gotten so serious that we should consider a lot of things that we haven't done in the past," he said at a Blair House luncheon with reporters. "I want to have a chance to look at all of the options and come out with a comprehensive approach."

The president's statement was part of a chorus of grief, outrage and debate following Tuesday's tragedy that left five dead and 20 wounded after a gunman opened fire on fellow passengers aboard the 5:33 train from Penn Station.

Clinton said he had asked Attorney General Janet Reno to review proposals by New York City Mayor-elect Rudolph Giuliani and Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan to establish a national gun registration system. The president also said he may propose making it more difficult to obtain a federal gun dealers' license.

Asked about measures such as controversial "stop-and-frisk" programs on city streets - aimed at finding and seizing illegal firearms - Clinton replied, "I wouldn't take that off of the table." But he said he wasn't yet ready to endorse them.

"I think what we need . . . is some sort of strategy to do on a national basis what some cities have done, which is to try to do an illegal weapons sweep - you know . . . an amnesty or something to get them all, get as many turned in as you can," he said.

Without that, he added, "There's going to be quite a long time lag for some of these laws to take effect unless you can get people to turn back in a lot of these weapons that are illegally held."

Meanwhile, FBI Director Louis Freeh, who ducked a question on assault weapons at his Senate confirmation hearing last summer, called yesterday for a complete ban on the manufacture, sale and distribution of assault-style weapons. He said they "serve only to provide a source of strength and power to America's criminal elements."

Freeh also advocated banning ammunition that breaks into pieces to increase physical damage to a shooting victim.
In a prepared statement, Gov. Mario Cuomo deplored the shooting, and a spokesman for his office, David Egner, said the incident underscored the need for tougher state gun laws. But Sen. Ralph Marino (R-Muttontown), the State Senate majority leader, renewed calls for the death penalty, which Cuomo opposes, and said federal, not state legislation, was needed to control guns.

Clinton used the Long Island shootings to lobby for the assault-weapons ban included in the Senate version of the crime bill now being considered by Congress. He said the ban would prohibit the 15-round clips used by the gunman.

"The rapid fire of the gun was something that almost paralyzed all the people on the car," Clinton said. "When the guy had to change clips and was wrestled to the ground, that seems to me to be a pretty good argument for the Feinstein amendment" banning assault weapons.

"The most important thing is there has been a sea change in public attitude," the president went on. "I am convinced that most Americans now realize how profoundly important these crime and violence issues are, and how it's time to face them."
Meanwhile, Rep. Charles Schumer (D-Brooklyn) and Handgun Control Inc., an advocacy group, yesterday unveiled a gun-control proposal that would create a national licensing procedure, ban certain types of weapons and limit purchases to one gun a month. Schumer said he would introduce the bill when Congress returns next month.

"I want to assure the families of the victims on Long Island that we can stop this violence," Schumer said. He was accompanied by Sarah and Jim Brady, leaders in the battle for gun control since the former presidential press secretary was seriously injured in the 1981 assassination attempt against President Ronald Reagan.

But Jerry Preiser, president of the Federation of New York State Rifle and Pistol Clubs, criticized the calls for more gun controls. "Charles Schumer and Mario Cuomo keep talking about more gun-control laws, but those only affect law-abiding citizens and gun licensees," he said. "The guy who shot up the train wasn't law abiding and he wasn't a licensee."
Lou Dolinar and Somini Sengupta contributed to this story, which was supplemented with news service reports.

Death and Guns
The number of people who die yearly due to firearms.

Nationally:
Deaths by handguns, along with other firearms included. Some states do not specify type of firearm that caused death on death certificate.

Assault
1979 13388
1980 14518
1981 14019
1982 12740
1983 11060
1984 10877
1985 10933
1986 11941
1987 11616
1988 12590
1989 13270
1990 14881
1991 16349

Accidental Deaths
1979 1693
1980 1667
1981 1647
1982 1537
1983 1486
1984 1443
1985 1459
1986 1269
1987 1234
1988 1299
1989 1258
1990 1175
1991 1186

Suicide
1979 13166
1980 13287
1981 13774
1982 14025
1983 13834
1984 14107
1985 14382
1986 14834
1987 14841
1988 14972
1989 15058
1990 15421
1991 14907

Injury
1979 597
1980 566
1981 584
1982 467
1983 456
1984 427
1985 411
1986 430
1987 353
1988 384
1989 281
1990 294
1991 287

Area:

New York City
1980 1159
1981 1290
1982 1181
1983 1146
1984 992
1985 951
1986 1028
1987 1166
1988 1414
1989 1454
1990 1626
1991 1734

Nassau
1980 55
1981 58
1982 47
1983 75
1984 43
1985 59
1986 68
1987 68
1988 51
1989 62
1990 71
1991 74

Suffolk
1980 69
1981 61
1982 59
1983 60
1984 53
1985 69
1986 52
1987 76
1988 75
1989 72
1990 84
1991 75

SOURCE: National Center for Health Statistics, State Department of Health

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