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Jewish World Review / June 23, 1998 / 29 Sivan, 5758

Roger Simon

Roger Simon There's a good reason
Bubba wants gun-control...

WASHINGTON -- With a great deal of pride, the Justice Department announced this week that an estimated 69,000 handgun sales were blocked last year because of background checks.

Background checks are mandatory under the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which is named for James Brady, Ronald Reagan's press secretary, who was shot and disabled by John Hinckley in an assassination attempt on Reagan.

Because the Brady background checks take a few days, this also means that a person who wants to buy a gun in a fit of rage on his lunch hour and then shoot his boss has a chance to cool down before he can get a handgun.

Is "Moses" little more
than a well-heeled yahoo?
There is no way of knowing how many lives the Brady law saves because of this, but we do know that an awful lot of bad people are prevented from getting handguns.

"About 62 percent of last year's rejections were based on a prior felony conviction or a current felony indictment," the Justice Department announced. "Eleven percent were based on domestic violence misdemeanor convictions or restraining orders, and 6 percent were because the applicant was a fugitive from justice."

Yahoos like Charlton Heston of the National Rifle Association are spending huge sums of money to encourage widespread gun ownership, while, as the Brady law shows, we ought to be taking even more careful steps to keep guns out of the hands of felons and fugitives.

Since the Brady Act became law in February 1994, there have been an estimated 242,000 purchases prevented by background checks, which means an awful lot of bad people were prevented from getting guns to carry out their criminal enterprises.

"Before the Brady bill passed in 1993, guns were sold on the honor system," said Eric E. Sterling, president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. "If you were a convicted felon or mentally deranged, you were expected to check the box on a form so the dealers wouldn't sell to you. The Brady bill ended the honor system for selling guns to criminals, drug addicts, the deranged and fugitives from justice. That's common sense."

And it is common sense supported by most Americans. One of Bill Clinton's major accomplishments has been changing handgun control from a left-wing issue to a mainstream issue.

Clinton has been in the forefront of gun control and has carefully built widespread support among those people who suffer most from handgun abuse: cops.

At virtually every gun control event he speaks at, Clinton is joined on the stage by scores of law enforcement officers who want to keep guns out of the hands of bad guys.

Clinton made gun control a very big issue in his re-election campaign in 1996, supporting not only strengthening the Brady Act but also banning assault rifles and cop-killer bullets.

Which is why it was more than a little strange to walk onto the South Lawn of the White House last Friday night and fire a machine gun.

I did it with deadly accuracy, by the way, and without regret.

And when I was done, the woman behind the counter asked me what I wanted as my prize.

That one, I said, pointing to a large, yellow and purple, four-armed, two-legged creature that was inexplicably sporting a small red sombrero.

"Sure," she said, sounding a little relieved that she could get rid of it. Most of the other winners seemed to be favoring the white gorillas with red boxing gloves.

This was the picnic thrown by the Clintons for the press (which was paid for with private funds, not tax dollars). The last time they had such a picnic was two years ago, and it consisted of a bunch of tables out on the lawn.

This year, somebody on the White House staff decided to go big time.

It was dubbed an "Old Fashioned Fair," and there was the largest tent I have ever seen, food, drinks, a band and a very elaborate mix of rides and carnival booths where you could win prizes like stuffed yellow and purple creatures and boxing gorillas.

The irony, quickly noted by just about everybody, was that while some of the booths featured such tests of skill as getting a small basketball in a small hoop, many of the booths featured guns.

There were machine guns like the one I used that shot BBs, and there were guns that shot rubber balls, and there were even crossbows that shot real darts.

All the guns and other weapons were chained down so that you could only point them at the targets, but it was still a little weird to be firing a machine gun on the president's back lawn.

As I have admitted before, I was a teenage head case in that I was a dues-paying member of the NRA while in high school and, if I do say so myself, a terrific shot. Which is why to this day I think that target shooting is a fine and fun sport.

I think shooting at animals for sport, on the other hand, is sick and keeping a gun in the home is dangerous and far more likely to be used to kill you or a loved one than a criminal.

Having said all that, I am still a terrific shot, and when my wife challenged me to back it up with a BB-shooting machine gun, I was happy to oblige.

Reporters lined up to shoot the guns, though they were interrupted at one point.

When Bill Clinton decided to wander around the booths and the rides, his aides told everybody they had to stop shooting. There was no chance the president could be hurt by any of the shooting, but the aides didn't think it was good symbolism for reporters to be firing away while the president was walking around.

The target I shot at to win my creature had a little red star instead of a bull's eye, and next year, if they change the star to a little figure of a special prosecutor, I bet the president would sit down and happily shoot BBs all night.

6/19/98: Why Clinton can get away with going to Tiananmen Square
6/16/98: Maybe Big Brother ain't so bad after all
6/11/98: He claimed responsibility for Rwanda, so why isn't Bubba stopping Serbian genocide?
6/9/98: The Internet president?
6/4/98: You can call me ‘slick;' and you can call me ‘sick;' but never call me ‘Dick' .... as in Nixon, that is
6/2/98: Being a 'talkin'-head' is hard work
5/29/98 Pay the pol, pick the policy
5/27/98 A 'loo' in London
5/21/98Buba is back from Europe ... but what did he accomplish?
5/18/98Roses for Buba
5/12/98: Just who is "Mr. Republican" these days?"
5/7/98:"Why Clinton keeeps "going and going and going""
5/1/98:"Bubba v. Tabacka"
4/29/98:"You may ask, but should they tell?"
4/24/98:"McCurry and the kids from the ‘hood "
4/23/98: "NOW" should change its name to "THEN"
4/20/98: Freedom to be a jerk?
4/14/98: Bill is Hef's kinda guy
4/7/98: South African memories --- and a paradise not yet found
3/24/98: Bill's 12-day safari
3/20/98: Peace for Ireland?
3/18/98: Flat tire? Spare me
3/13/98: Latrell Sprewell's genius
3/10/98: On truth and reality
3/5/98: No, I'm not harrassing Hillary
3/3/98: The Unforgettable Henny Youngman
2/26/98: Grow up, boys!
2/24/98: Go get 'em, Bill!
2/19/98: My 15 minutes
2/17/98: The manic-depressive presidency
2/12/98: Drip, Drip, Drip
2/10/98: Clinton tunes out the networks
2/5/98: The flight of the Beast: America's love-hate relationship with scandal
2/3/98: Speaking Clintonese
1/29/98: What the president has going for him
1/27/98: Judgment call: how Americans view President Clinton
1/22/98: Bimbo eruptions past and present
1/20/98: Feeding the beast: Paula Jones gets the full O.J.
1/15/98: Let's get it over with: it's time to deal with Saddam, already
1/13/98: Sonny Bono is dead, let the good times roll
1/8/98: Carribbean Cheesecake: First couple has cake, eats cake
1/6/98: PO'ed: a suspected druggie jumps through the employment hoops
1/1/98: Cures for that holiday hangover
12/30/97: Buy stuff now
12/25/97: Peace to all squirrelkind
12/23/97: Home for the Holidays: Where John Hinckley, never convicted, will not be
12/18/97: Bill's B-list Bacchanalia: Press and politicos get cozy, to a point
12/16/97: All dressed up... (White House flack Mike McCurry speculates on his next career)

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.