Clinton Urges Hunters To Back Assault-Gun Ban

PRESIDENT Clinton has stepped up his campaign to ban assault weapons, urging hunters in an open letter to help outlaw firearms ``designed for the battlefield.''

In his letter, Mr. Clinton stressed that he had been a hunter since age 12 and offered assurances that he would ``not allow the rights of hunters and sportsmen to be infringed upon.'' But he added: ``I know the difference between a firearm used for hunting and target shooting and a weapon designed to kill people.''

The Senate has approved legislation that would outlaw assault weapons. White House aides say the legislation is about 15-to-20 votes short in the House and faces an uphill battle for approval. Clinton is focusing his lobbying efforts on about 70 key legislators. The legislation would stop the manufacture, sale, and new possession of 19 semiautomatic assault-style weapons, bar production of copycat models, and limit detachable magazines to 10 rounds.

Clinton, in his letter, sought to blunt arguments by ``high-paid lobbyists'' that the bill would infringe on hunters' rights. ``The proposal I support speci-fically safeguards hunters' rights,'' he said. ``It explicitly protects more than 450 hunting and recreational rifles from the ban.''

He said the 19 forms of assault weapons that would be banned ``have no place on a deer hunt, in a duck blind, or on a target range - and they certainly don't belong on our streets, in our neighborhoods or on our schoolyards.''

The assault-weapons ban is part of a broader anticrime package. Clinton said the crime bill would get tough on criminals by putting 100,000 more police on the streets and requiring life without parole for three-time violent offenders. US chief to empower Indian chiefs

PRESIDENT Clinton says he supports efforts by Indian tribes to build gaming casinos, an endorsement that was warmly embraced by a tribe hoping to build a casino in Massachusetts.

``It certainly is good to hear the president say he feels it gives tribes a competitive advantage,'' said Beverly Wright, chairwoman of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head. The tribe has been negotiating with Gov. William Weld (R) over a proposal to build a casino in New Bedford.

Ms. Wright was one of 250 tribal leaders who heard Clinton speak at a White House meeting on Friday. Clinton signed a directive ordering all government departments to consult more closely with tribes on Indian programs and needs. ``Our history has not always been a proud one, but our future can be,'' he said.

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt said the order would mean that tribal leaders would be treated more like state governors when they seek assistance from government agencies.

The tribal leaders appealed for more assistance for health care, housing, and other needs. The administration, however, has declined requests to exempt Indian programs from budget cuts.

The White House said this was the first time all the nation's 545 federally recognized tribes had been invited to meet the president.

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