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Documents made available for the first time in the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Ark., show there was an aggressive administration plan to attack the gun industry and impose new limits on citizens’ Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Judicial Watch, the Washington-based public interest group that battles government corruption, noted the papers include a 2000 letter from New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and a memorandum from former Clinton advisor Sidney Blumenthal.
Bill Clinton (Courtesy Clinton Library)
The concept that guns themselves are at fault when used by violent criminals, such as the student attackers in the Columbine school shootings in 1999, gained ground during that era.
Among other things, Clinton proposed a mandatory “license” for gun ownership, wanted to require inventories for gun dealers and worked to limit certain types of arms from being allowed in the United States.
The newly-found papers show that there was a concerted effort to orchestrate a series of moves that would have severely closed down the window for gun ownership.
The note from Spitzer is addressed to Bruce Reed, director of the Domestic Policy Council at the time, and typified the political attitude. Spitzer noted that cities and states had begun negotiating with members of the gun industry over a series of lawsuits over the liability of gun makers for actions taken by gun users.
“The objective of the lawsuits – and, of course, of the settlement negotiations – was to save lives by having the gun companies adopt commercial measures to keep guns out of criminals’ hands and incorporate safety devices to prevent gun accidents,” the note said.
In Clinton’s handwriting at the top, there’s a note, “Bruce, See me re: this … has some good ideas for future.”
Those ideas included denying gun makers the right to sell guns to the military and law enforcement unless they signed an anti-gun “code of conduct ” that would have crippled the industry, Judicial Watch said.
The letter said government officials were working toward an industry-wide standard that gun manufacturers would “take responsibility for their downstream sales” and work to design handguns that would not appeal to criminals, even though there was no consensus “as to what makes a gun attractive to criminals.”
It also talked about requiring locks, magazine disconnect safeties, smart gun technology and set-asides of specific dollars for research on gun safety.
The letter also suggested a private group outside the government and beyond the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms would be needed to monitor gun makers and sales. That unidentified group would have the power to “force any non-compliant signatories to the agreement to adhere to its principles.”
The memorandum from Blumenthal to Reed also included information about plans for class-action lawsuits against gun makers.
“I think this is a very promising idea. Let’s talk about it soon,” he wrote.
“The ‘promising idea’ identified by Blumenthal involved filing massive product liability and negligence lawsuits against major handgun makers,” Judicial Watch said. A clip from The Los Angeles Times included with the note called that “the opening salvo in a campaign against the gun industry by an alliance of anti-tobacco attorneys and local governments.”
It was less than two years later, in March 2000, when that strategy was used to “strong-arm” gun maker Smith and Wesson to install gun locks and ban the sale of its weapons at trade shows, Judicial Watch said.
The company’s agreement came on the promise a lawsuit against the manufacturer would be dropped, Judicial Watch said.
“These new documents clearly show that the Clinton administration put into motion an organized plan to attack the gun industry,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Tough questions about these extortive methods ought to be asked of both Clintons.”
Judicial Watch is a non-partisan education foundation that promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law.
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