AKRON, Ohio, May 12 -- While traveling through the Midwest Friday, President Clinton announced $600,000 in research grants for gun makers Smith & Wesson and FN Manufacturing Inc., to study so-called smart gun technology.
"We have to have someone in the industry to help us with this research," Clinton said after meeting with Ohio organizers of the Million Mom March, a gun control demonstration scheduled for Mother's Day in Washington. "We need to have some allies in the gun industry who really do believe that prevention is an important part of a safe future for America."
At $300,000 each, the two grants will fund the companies' research to develop guns that would fire only for their owner with the help of electronic gadgetry.
Clinton denied speculation that Smith & Wesson's grant was a favor for its recent gun safety deal with the administration. The administration had threatened to join state and local governments in an effort to sue gun manufactures for costs incurred by authorities dealing with gun violence; to avoid the lawsuit Smith & Wesson agreed to implement gun safety measures in its firearms production and distribution in a move that put the nation's largest handgun maker at odds with the politically powerful gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association.
Clinton's announcement comes as part of the build-up to the Mother's Day march in Washington and some 60 other cites by a coalition of mothers, who are calling on Congress to act on gun legislation stalled in a joint House-Senate committee chaired by Sen. Orin Hatch, R-Utah. Hatch's committee is considering two versions of gun control legislation passed in the wake of the teen killing spree in Littleton, Colo., in April 1999. The House bill deals with juvenile crime, but the Senate bill calls for number of new gun-control measures, including background checks at gun shows and a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips.
Hatch has refused to open committee meetings to draft compromise legislation since the measures passed, saying sideline compromises must be made or the committee will deadlock.
Clinton and his Democratic allies on Capitol Hill have repeatedly called on Hatch to convene the committee, but the Utah Republican has remained obstinate.
Clinton said the marches would send a powerful message to lawmakers who so far have refused to take up the legislation.
"They can ignore my requests," Clinton said. "But this Sunday they will not be able to ignore the fact that the voices of more than a million moms across America will be demanding action."