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web posted November 13, 2000

A very different approach to gun control

The tiny southern Utah town of Virgin has enacted an ordinance requiring a gun and ammunition in every home for residents' self-defense.

Most of Virgin's 350 residents already own firearms so the initiative has lots of support, Mayor Jay Lee said. The ordinance was passed June 15.

Residents had expressed fear that their Second Amendment right to bear arms was under fire so the town council modeled a similar measure passed by a Georgia city about 12 years ago.

The move has some Utah residents perplexed.

Utah's Safe to Learn, Safe to Worship Coalition, which is fighting to keep guns out of schools and churches, says the legislature hasn't discussed guns and they don't understand why residents are afraid their second amendment rights are being taken away.

Virgin residents who don't comply will not be punished, the mayor says.

Also, exceptions will be made for the mentally ill, convicted felons, conscientious objectors and people who can't afford to own a gun.

Canadian PM savages opposition over gun control

Canada's low-key election race roared into life on November 6 when Prime Minister Jean Chretien claimed that a vote for the main opposition party on November 27 could leave the low-crime country awash with firearms.

Chretien, denying that he was launching a personal attack on Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day, nevertheless attacked his right-wing opponent over a vow to scrap the government's tough 1995 gun control legislation.

"This law is very very important for Canadians and I want them to know that if they vote for Stockwell Day there is a chance that people will be able to buy firearms at will as they can in certain U.S. states,"Chretien told reporters after a speech to members of his ruling Liberal Party in Ottawa.

Day says that if he wins the election he will scrap the gun control law, which was enacted after a lone gunman killed 14 young women in a Montreal school in 1989.

Chretien, reminding his audience that firearm homicide rates in the United States are more than eight times higher than those in Canada, said the legislation was one of his government's great achievements.

Canada prides itself in having far fewer violent crimes than its southern neighbor and the gun control debate goes to the heart of the country's national identity. There are 250 million firearms in the United States, almost one for each person, compared to seven million for 30 million Canadians.

One main plank of the 1995 law is a costly gun registration scheme which requires the listing of all firearms. Previously only handguns had to be registered.

The scheme is very unpopular in western provinces such as Alberta -- Day's main power base -- where people see it as an infringement of their human rights.

"(The gun control law) is a disaster. It will not reduce crime," Day said in an interview broadcast over the Internet the same day of Chretien's remarks. The Alliance says given that criminals are unlikely to register their guns, the only way to clamp down on crime is to hire more police to enforce existing laws.

Clinton: 'I've got another 10 weeks to quack'

Bill Clinton votingPresident Clinton said the arrival of Election Day -- when the political stars of his wife and his vice president could rise to eclipse his own -- may have mad him wistful, but it doesn't make him a lame duck. "I've got another 10 weeks to quack," he said.

Asked early November 7 if he would seek office again, Clinton said, "I don't think I'm going to be running for anything. I'm just going to try to be a good citizen."

He added, "I am going to be happy doing whatever I do. I've had a great life. I've been very lucky."

Clinton flew to New York the night before the election and arose early the next day to vote with his wife, Hillary, and daughter, Chelsea. They were among the first voters at Douglas Grafflin Elementary School. Chelsea voted first, followed by her mother, who came out of the booth smiling brightly. Clinton voted last and finished minutes ahead of his family.

"You can't put me down as undecided. I'm there," Clinton told reporters.

As for his own sentiments about not being on the ballot, Clinton said he was a little sad but had come to accept it. "I've had my time, and it was a good time," he said. "I've loved it."

He pledged to "manage the transition well" for whoever wins the election, but doesn't plan to go gently into lame-duckdom. He said he would focus on pursuing peace in the Middle East and improving relations with North Korea and would work on several legislative matters still pending before Congress -- an agenda that would keep him busy until he leaves office Jan. 20.

"Some people thought I was a lame duck in '95," Clinton said. "I'll just keep quacking. I've got another 10 weeks to quack."

Classy. Gore retracts concession call

Vice President Al Gore conceded the presidential race in a telephone call to George W. Bush on the morning of November 8 – then took it back.

"He called an hour ago to concede. He just called us back to retract that concession," said Karen Hughes, communications director for Bush. "It's unbelievable."

That was an apt description of the seesawing election night. At one point, the key state of Florida was teetering toward Bush and the TV networks called the race in Bush's favor. Gore picked up the telephone and called Bush.

"We gave them a cliffhanger," the vice president told Bush, according to Hughes.

Bush replied, "You're a formidable opponent and a good man. I know it's hard. I know it's hard for your family. Give my best to Tipper and your children."

A senior adviser with the Gore campaign confirmed that the vice president made the two calls, one to concede and the other to retract.

Bush files suit to halt hand recount

Republicans sent the 2000 presidential race into the federal courts on November 11 at the same time election officials in one of Florida's 67 counties launched a hand recount sought by Vice President Al Gore. "We're all in limbo," said George W. Bush at the end of a week of unprecedented political turmoil.

A federal judge set a hearing for November 13 in Miami on the Bush campaign's request for a court order blocking the manual recount in Florida's improbably close vote.

The Texas governor holds a narrow lead after an unofficial recount, with an unknown number of overseas ballots yet to be counted. The winner of the state stands to gain an electoral college majority and become the nation's 43rd president.

The GOP suit cited a need to "preserve the integrity, equality, and finality" of the vote. Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, said that with a manual recount, "human error, individual subjectivity, and decisions to, quote, 'determine the voters' intent,' close quote, would replace precision machinery in tabulating millions of small marks and fragile hole punches."

Democrats responded forcefully a few hours later, calling for the withdrawal of the suit and expressing confidence they would prevail in court. "The hand count can be completed expeditiously and it should be," said former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, speaking on Gore's behalf. He added that Bush, as governor of Texas, had signed legislation in 1997 specifying that hand recounts be used to settle certain disputed elections -- a position at odds with the current stated preferences of the GOP high command.

The unsettled situation in Florida held the candidates and their supporters in suspense and the nation in thrall, and sent the 2000 election on an unpredictable course.

Republican strategists, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that pending the outcome of the legal challenge, they were considering challenging narrow Gore victories in Wisconsin, Oregon or elsewhere, or possibly seeking recounts in additional counties in the Sunshine State.

"All options are open, of course" Bush told reporters at his ranch outside Waco, Texas, running mate Dick Cheney at his side.

Christopher, asked later how far he was willing to go legally, offered a noncommittal response. "We've been considering various other options," he said. "No decision's been reached."

On a day of uncertainty 96 hours after the nation voted, the recount got underway at mid-afternoon in Palm Beach County, where some Gore supports claim a poorly designed ballot may have caused them to vote inadvertently for Pat Buchanan.

Ballots were ferried to the government center under police escort. Election workers brought silver metal boxes in from four precincts, broke the seals and removed the ballots. Six teams of three counters and two observers peered closely at the ballots to determine how they were marked.

"Until we get a court order it doesn't mean anything," said Palm Beach County Judge Charles Burton on the recanvass efforts there. "If we get one we'll read it and we will abide by it."

In addition to the manual recount sought by the Democrats, county officials were also re-tallying by machine, this time at the request of the Bush campaign.

In Volusia county, officials put off a hand recount until November 12, saying they first needed to complete a review of write-in ballots cast on Election Day. "The process of counting the write-ins is taking a longer time than expected," said Dave Byron, a county spokesman. "The write-in process is a meticulous process."

In another area, heavily Republican Duval County, election officials disclosed that about 26,000 ballots were disqualified and never counted on Election Day because they were marked for more than one presidential candidate, or none at all.

The winner of Florida' s 25 electoral votes stands to take the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2001 as the nation's 43rd president. An unofficial tally by The Associated Press of an initial recount in Florida's 67 counties showed the Texas governor with a 327-vote lead over the vice president.

State officials said their recount showed Bush leading by 960 votes with 66 counties reporting. The 67th county, Palm Beach, is under a local court order not to certify results after a hearing on November 14. The order, handed down by Circuit Judge Kathleen Kroll, is the result of one of eight lawsuits filed by voters who say a faulty ballot design may have caused them to inadvertently vote for Pat Buchanan rather than Gore.

In addition, state officials have until November 17 to tally the ballots mailed from overseas and postmarked by election day.

Not counting the Sunshine State, Bush carried 29 states for 246 electoral votes. Gore, who added Oregon to his column on Friday, counted 19 states plus the District of Columbia for 262 electoral votes, with 270 needed for victory. New Mexico remained too close to call, but its five electoral votes would not be decisive.

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