A Certain Level of Killing

By Scott Hogenson
CNS Commentary
14 March, 2000


President Clinton and the National Rifle Association are at it again, this time tossing brickbats at each other over gun violence and whether Clinton uses the issue for political gain.

Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's executive vice president, said Sunday that Clinton "is willing to accept a certain level of [gun] killing to further his political agenda," a charge Clinton called "outrageous and disgusting."

Whether the president does or does not use gun violence as a tool for moving his political agenda is difficult to answer, depending on the definition of "tool," "political" and "agenda." But there's no question that Clinton has given guns a higher profile than most other stated administration priorities lately and the White House Internet web site proves it.

A simple search of the White House "Virtual Library" using its built-in search engine shows that between January 1, 1999 and March 14, 2000, Clinton used his weekly radio addresses to plug his anti-gun message more than he used it to promote schools or education, Social Security, Medicare, the environment or peace.

During the past 63 weeks, Bill Clinton delivered 14 Saturday radio addresses in which the key search-word "guns" was used. Of those 14 speeches, 11 focused specifically on guns, violence or crime.

By comparison, the president delivered only 10 addresses that specifically spoke to "school" and "education." Punch in the keyword "Medicare" and 19 radio addresses pop up, with six focusing on Medicare, its recipients and medical treatment.

A dozen radio addresses included the keyword "environment," 5 of which focused on environmental issues. The keywords "Social Security" return 15 results but only three of those speeches focused on Social Security, Medicare or the future of America's elderly. The keyword "peace" showed up in 12 radio addresses during the past 15 months, according to the White House Internet search engine of radio addresses.

In many cases, keywords like 'school,' 'education,' 'Medicare' and others show up in radio addresses that focus on Black History Month, civil rights, the budget agreement or the budget surplus. These keywords represent secondary issues in a much larger package of executive spin. But when it comes to guns and creative new ways to control and restrict them, Clinton focuses like a laser in his radio addresses.

Bill Clinton and his minions can hurl any number of nasty accusations at the NRA in general or LaPierre in particular, but they can't get around the fact that when it comes to using the bully pulpit of the White House and the megaphone of a nationally broadcast radio address, Clinton has dedicated far more time to gun control than many other issues the administration says are important.

But the president does more than just talk about the need for gun control in his radio addresses. He makes his point with whatever fresh tragedy is in the newspapers.

In his March 4, 2000 address, he referred specifically and immediately to the previous day's funeral service for Kayla Rolland, the six-year-old Michigan girl killed by a classmate.

Immediately following the April, 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, Clinton delivered three radio address in four weeks focusing specifically on that incident, including one to mark the one-month anniversary of the tragedy and a fourth radio address on June 19, 1999 to mark the two-month anniversary of Columbine.

Clinton further invoked the name of Columbine and the memory of the dead in his radio address of September 4, 1999 to chide the Republican Congress for not passing more gun control laws, sternly warning "it shouldn't take another tragedy to shake them from the summer slumber."

In his September 11, 1999 speech, he specifically mentioned Columbine yet again, calling school gun violence "an urgent reminder... to protect our children from violence."

Is Clinton "willing to accept certain level of killing" to further his political agenda? That's up to the individual. But it's indisputable that he uses a certain level of killing to score his political points in his radio addresses.

Scott Hogenson is executive editor of CNSNews.com




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