Originally created 07/10/98

NRA, Clinton agree? 071098 - The Augusta Chronicle



NRA, Clinton agree?

For years the National Rifle Association has battled against any erosion of the Constitution's Second "right to bear arms" Amendment. It has been urging instead, as newly-elected NRA President Charlton Heston did last month, more vigorous enforcement of existing laws as a way to cut back on armed criminal violence.

Well, believe it or not, some people, including liberals, are finally getting the message. Example: Edward Rendell, Philadelphia's liberal Democrat mayor, is volunteering his city as a test case for the NRA's "Operation Exile" initiative calling for energetic prosecution of every violation of federal gun statutes -- coupled with maximum sentences for those found guilty.

This law-enforcement tool has been so successful in curbing gun-related crimes in Richmond, Va., that the GOP-controlled Congress is responding to a proposal worked out between the NRA and Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., to set aside $1.5 million for extra federal prosecutors, investigators and other law-enforcement resources in Philadelphia.

Even though the initiative comes from one of the Clinton administration's strongest political foes, Rendell -- no admirer, either, of the NRA -- says he expects White House support for the Specter plan.

"I do believe they're going to cooperate, notwithstanding the very bitter personal nature of NRA rhetoric against the president," the mayor told Reuters news agency. Senior Justice Department and FBI officials are already taking a closer look at Operation Exile.

What makes these unusual bedfellows come together is Richmond's experience with the program. Since it started early last year, gun related homicide has plummeted more than 60 percent, prompting endorsements even from gun-control groups, including Handgun Control, Inc.

The NRA, of course, is delighted with support its "get tough on gun crime" is receiving from old foes. So don't blame the 2.8 million-member group for taking some satisfaction that its longtime contention that new gun-control laws aren't necessary if existing ones are strictly enforced is proving to be true.