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Crime bill to limit gun sales

WITH rows of uniformed law enforcement officers ranked behind him, President Bill Clinton took to the White House Rose Garden yesterday to unveil proposals for an anti-crime bill imposing new limits on gun sales and putting 50,000 more police officers on American streets.

The initiative, which needs bi- partisan support in Congress, is Mr Clinton's attempt to live up to campaign promises to crack down on crime and deploy 100,000 more police officers.

Describing the measure as a 'major down-payment' on his campaign commitment, Mr Clinton declared that the 'first duty of any government is to try to keep its citizens safe'. He made repeated references to the risks faced by children on city blocks, in schools and even in public swimming pools.

Mr Clinton also plans to sign two executive orders, which require no congressional approval, to reinforce regulations covering gun shops and to introduce a ban on imports of foreign-made assault pistols. 'The efforts to keep handguns out of the hands of criminals cannot and should not wait for the passage of legislation,' he said.

The measures would entail a mandatory five-day waiting period for anyone attempting to buy firearms, allowing local authorities to complete background checks on all prospective purchasers.

The bill, which calls for dollars 3.4bn ( pounds 2.3bn) in extra funding, provides for 'boot camps' for teenage criminals, echoing an initiative he introduced as governor of Arkansas. Mr Clinton is also seeking to expand the categories of federal crimes that can be punished by the death penalty.

Although public sentiment is strongly in favour of combating crime, any provisions limiting access to guns will always be controversial on Capitol Hill.