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

By Ron Scherer, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, February 27, 1997 | Go to article overview

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


Ron Scherer, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


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. …

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