Reno Calls For National
Gun Licensing System


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two days after the shooting at a Los Angeles Jewish community centre, Attorney General Janet Reno on Thursday called on Congress to "seriously consider" tougher gun legislation that would include a national gun licensing system.
At her weekly news conference, Reno did not lay out a specific plan on how to implement such a proposal -- that in order to own a handgun, a person should get an operator's license first.
``I believe we must seriously explore the possibility of requiring the licensing of all handguns,'' Reno said, echoing similar suggestions made by President Bill Clinton earlier this year.
``It is common sense, pure common sense, to ensure that guns are only in the hands of those who know how to safely and lawfully use them and have the capacity and willingness to do so,'' she said.
At the White House, Clinton backed Reno, saying: ``I wanted to strongly support and associate myself with her comments on this.''
In a June television interview, Clinton suggested Americans should have to register their guns as they do their cars.
``Should we do more? Should people ought to have to register guns like they register their cars? Do I think that? Of course I do. Of course I do,'' Clinton said then.
Bill Powers, director of public affairs for the National Rifle Association, said that most everything Clinton and Reno were calling for was already law.
``Deranged, psychotic people were not stopped by the present federal laws and wouldn't be stopped by the one or two laws Reno or Clinton proposed,'' he said. ``The present gun control laws are not being enforced.''
Calls by Reno, the nation's top law enforcement officer, come one day after Buford O'Neal Furrow Jr., 37, a suspect in Tuesday's shooting rampage in Los Angeles, turned himself in at the Federal Bureau of Investigation's office in Las Vegas.
Furrow, a member of the Aryan Nations group of white supremacists, was accused of spraying bullets into the North Valley Jewish Community Centre, wounding three young boys and two women.
He also confessed to killing Joseph Ileto, a Filipino-American postal worker, police said.
Next month when it returns from summer recess, Congress is likely to face heavy pressure to reconcile the differences between a bill passed by the Senate and one passed by the House of Representatives.
The Senate bill included several new gun control measures, including the controversial proposal to require background checks of all gun sales at gun shows. That is not in the House legislation, although there has still been some talk of a compromise in the conference committee working to produce one bill.
Reno said the Congress should approve the language in the Senate bill ``until we adopt comprehensive measures to keep guns away from those who should not have them.''
Reno also said the shootings at the Jewish centre and of the postman may be hate crimes. ``Although the investigations are still under way, these shootings appear to have been motivated by hate,'' she said.
``Eliminating hate crimes and eliminating bigotry and bitterness are among this nation's most important, and most enduring challenges,'' she said.