Gun-Control Laws Scrutinized after Empire State Shooting Proposed New Rules Would Stop Foreign Tourists from Buying Guns

Article excerpt

The shootings on the Empire State Building have galvanized the gun-control movement.

In the wake of Sunday's gunfire, which killed one person, anti-gun legislators are asking for new federal rules to close some loopholes that allowed a Palestinian tourist to buy a gun in Florida and shoot seven people in New York. Some of the proposals would require a national handgun identification card similar to a driver's license and would ban foreign tourists and visitors from buying guns in the US.

Gun-control advocates are also asking the White House to take action to toughen the residency requirements for obtaining a gun. Dennis Henigan, general counsel for Handgun Control, Inc., says President Clinton, under current law, could require a handgun buyer to show a utility bill or some other evidence of residency. "In many states, it's too easy to get a driver's license or ID card," says Mr. Henigan. The National Rifle Association (NRA) says it is opposed to any new gun-control legislation. "This tragedy on the Empire State Building is a reason to examine why gun controls failed," says Tom Wyld, a spokesman for the NRA in Fairfax, Va. Mr. Wyld says the NRA is not opposed to proof-of-residency requirements. But, he adds, "Would a utility bill have prevented the crime, or just postponed it?" On Tuesday, the Justice Department said the so-called Brady bill, which requires background checks before anyone can buy a handgun, had prevented 186,000 illegal over-the-counter sales of guns during the past 28 months. About 70 percent of those who could not buy a gun were convicted felons. But the Justice Department analysis does not say whether the rejectees obtained guns on the black market. In the latest shooting, a Palestinian English teacher, Ali Abu Kamal, flew to Melbourne, Fla., where he was able to obtain a Florida ID card. With the card and using his motel as his residence, he obtained a .38 Beretta semi-automatic pistol. On Sunday afternoon in New York, he opened fire on a group of tourists on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. He then killed himself. Mr. Kamal carried a letter announcing his "restless aspiration" to murder a list of enemies he associated with Israel and Zionism. New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (R) called the Florida laws "insane," because they allowed Kamal to obtain a gun after only three days in the state. …