House Still Needs Votes To Ban Assault Weapons

THE House and Senate may be heading for a standoff on whether sweeping crime legislation includes a ban on assault weapons, a key congressman says.

Rep. Charles Schumer (D) of New York, the chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime, said Sunday that the House is 15 to 20 votes short of a majority in favor of the ban.

``I find it very surprising with all the mayhem going on in the streets,'' Mr. Schumer said. ``The House voted against an assault-weapons ban two years ago, but a lot has changed since then.''

The Senate last fall passed a $22 billion crime bill including the ban; the House version, due for debate this week, has no ban.

Schumer said aggressive lobbying by the National Rifle Association is behind the soft support for the ban in the House.

Rep. Bill McCollum (R) of Florida, also a member of the crime subcommittee, said he might accept a crime bill containing an assault-weapons ban but added: ``I don't think that's the issue.'' He said: ``The problem isn't repeating rifles, it's repeating offenders.'' Clinton to appeal timber ruling

THE Clinton administration is preparing to appeal a court decision that gave the timber industry its biggest legal victory since the northern spotted owl was declared an endangered species in 1990.

The government will ask the Supreme Court or a federal appeals court to review the ruling, which environmentalists say threatens to undermine federal protection of endangered species.

A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that the destruction of a species' habitat was not one of the ``harmful'' activities prohibited by the Endangered Species Act.

Ruling in a case brought by a Sweet Home, Ore., timber group, the panel said the Fish and Wildlife Service had incorrectly decided that logging of forests containing endangered species or other habitat modifications were harmful activities.

``This decision is very dangerous,'' said Suellen Lowry, a lawyer for the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund. ``It attacks one of the most important elements of species protection - the habitat on which they depend,'' she said.

William Murray, a lawyer for the American Forest and Paper Association, said the timber industry is optimistic the ruling will benefit logging interests but is still trying to figure out the ramifications. ``I would say right now that the decision is still in a state of reaction,'' Mr. Murray said.

Additional lawsuits are expected in other regions if the conflict is not eventually resolved by the Supreme Court, say lawyers on both sides of the issue.

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