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Senate OK's safety locks on guns

WASHINGTON -- A Senate agreement requiring child-safety locks on US handguns gave Democrats encouragement yesterday that renewing an assault weapons ban might also become part of a package to protect gun makers and sellers from gun crime lawsuits.

The GOP-controlled Senate voted, 70 to 27, to require all handguns sold in the United States to have child-safety locks, adding the measure to the legislation providing the gun industry immunity from suits when a legally sold gun is subsequently used in a crime.

Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, and Senator Herb Kohl, Democrat of Wisconsin, argued that requiring child safety locks on newly purchased handguns would help reduce the number of children accidentally killed by handguns in the home. Every 48 hours, a child is killed through an accidental shooting, Boxer said. "If we were to pass this legislation and it became the law of the land, the number of children involved in the number of accidental shootings would go way down," she said.

Kohl said the bill "is not a panacea. It will not prevent every single avoidable firearm-related accident. But the fact is that all parents want to protect their children. This legislation will ensure that people purchase child-safety locks when they buy guns. Those who buy locks are more likely to use them. That much we know is certain." The Senate in 1999 passed similar legislation but the House refused to approve the measure.

Senator Larry Craig, Republican of Idaho, the sponsor of the gunmaker immunity legislation, argued against the measure, saying gun manufacturers already are working on the problem. Craig said the amendment would be an intrusion of the federal government into people's private homes.

"For the first time, the long arm of government will reach into the private place and suggest to the average American how they will store an object in that private place," he said. "I'm not arguing about the care and the emotion and the concern and the reality. Not that at all. I understand that. But I don't believe that government ought to be telling the average citizen how they store objects within their home."

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