President Bill Clinton shocked gun owners throughout the nation last night when he proposed that all citizens be licensed by the government before they can purchase a handgun.

“Every state in this country already requires hunters and automobile drivers to have a license. I think they ought to do the same thing for handgun purchases,” Clinton said. “I hope you’ll help me pass that in this Congress.”

The proposal, part of the president’s State of the Union agenda, would add to the required Brady background check now in force the requirement that adults wishing to purchase a firearm first take a special training course, and then be issued a gun license before they could purchase a firearm.

The photo I.D. would be issued by states under the federally mandated program, according to a White House source. In the event a state does not agree to participate in the program, a federal gun license would be made available in that state.

President Clinton last night, asking Congress to approve national photo IDs for purchasing guns.

Federally licensed gun dealers would be required by the proposed law to check for the gun license before selling handguns. Asked if the proposed gun license would later expand to all types of firearms, the White House source said it was a “natural progression.”

The proposal came as a total surprise to officials of the National Rifle Association and the Gun Owners of America.

In his speech, the President spoke of the death of Daniel Mauser, 15, in the Columbine High School shooting last year. His father, Tom Mauser, was sitting on the Democrat side of the aisle when he was introduced.

“Crime in America has dropped for the past seven years, the longest decline on record, thanks to a national consensus we helped forge on community police, sensible gun control, and effective prevention,” Clinton said. “But nobody believes America is safe enough. So let’s set a higher goal: Let’s make America the safest big country in the world.”

Regarding Clinton’s use of Mauser in the audience, Gun Owners of America Executive Director Larry Pratt told WorldNetDaily, “It’s become a dog and pony show.” Pratt said he received an emotional call from Mauser after he recently appeared on a television show. He accused Mauser of expressing hatred for guns and gun owners, and of being unwilling to listen to facts.

“If the Republicans show some moxie for a change, the Democrats will have hung themselves,” said Pratt, who spoke with WorldNetDaily while watching the speech from his home.

“This is the kind of thing that lost them control of the Congress in 1994,” said Pratt. “To volunteer to bring it up in a campaign year, Clinton must be very sure of himself that ‘reasonable gun safety’ is a way that he can talk about gun control [while] preparing for confiscation. That’s what this is, by the way, the preparation for confiscation, which we’ve seen in New York already. We’ve seen it in California,” said Pratt.

Clinton recently initiated a campaign that promotes fighting crime as well as gun safety issues. The National Rifle Association, in a recent statement about the campaign, said the organization remains skeptical regarding Clinton’s real desire to fight crime.

NRA Institute for Legislative Action executive director James Jay Baker commented, “I’m glad that the president has finally agreed with the NRA that enforcing federal firearms laws makes sense. We’ve been pushing for more enforcement of existing laws, and it’s unfortunate that it took him until the seventh year of his term to finally take that seriously.” However, Baker cautioned, “The president has proved adept at changing his position. When we see the detailed budget, we’ll know if he has truly changed.” The statement added an expectation that Clinton would not “temper his anti-gun zeal.”

An NRA spokesman, Brian Judy, was caught by surprise when WorldNetDaily informed him of the gun-licensing plan shortly before the State of the Union address began, and could not offer an official comment.

After the speech, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said, “What’s it going to solve? The criminals could care less. They’re not going to stand in line; they won’t comply with it.”

Vice President Al Gore and former Sen. Bill Bradley have both proposed gun licensing.

Republican presidential candidates have taken a different stand. Texas Gov. George W. Bush has spoken for an increase of the age for handgun purchases to 21, as well as instant background checks at gun shows. But Bush opposes licensing or registration.

Steve Forbes has stated that states should set their own gun laws, while Alan Keyes speaks passionately of the right of individuals to own firearms without government interference.

Pratt said he now expects the gun issue to become one to which every candidate, national or local, must respond. He said it would be good to get the debate out on the table as a major part of the coming election.

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