President Clinton, who lost his fight for new gun control laws this year, began pressing the issue anew today during a West Coast fund-raising tour for Democrats and a gun control lobby.
"We haven't done everything we should do to make this the safest big country in the world," Clinton told Democratic politicians and donors in San Francisco.
The White House failed to get new restrictions on gun sales at private gun shows and a requirement that a firearm safety device be sold with each gun to reduce the number of accidental shootings, the president said.
"It's not just crimes that are the problem," Clinton said.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee estimated that the San Francisco luncheon would bring in more than $500,000 for congressional candidates.
The benefit was part of the president's three-day trip to California, Washington state and Pennsylvania, with Democratic fund-raising bracketing an address to the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle on Wednesday.
Later today, entertainer Whoopi Goldberg was set to introduce the president at a glitzy Beverly Hills party benefiting Handgun Control Inc. and its West Coast legal and research office.
Handgun Control's most prominent figure is Sarah Brady, the wife of former White House press secretary James Brady who was shot during the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. Others associated with the organization are entertainers Barbra Streisand, Billy Crystal, Susan Sarandon, Rosie O'Donnell and Beau Bridges, who portrayed Brady in a 1992 TV movie on his life.
Tickets to a reception honoring the sixth anniversary of the enactment of the Brady law--which required background checks on firearm buyers--cost $250 each. A seat at the subsequent exclusive dinner with Clinton required a $10,000 donation.
The White House marked the law's anniversary by releasing new public safety figures. The Clinton administration said the Brady background check system has helped block more than 470,000 gun sales to felons, fugitives and others barred by law from owning a gun.
In the year since an add-on "instant background check" took effect, the Brady system has stopped more than 160,000 illegal sales, the White House said.
"These numbers, of course, are not just numbers," Clinton said in a statement. "They represent lives saved, injuries avoided, tragedies averted. They are a measure of what we can do to reduce gun violence, and a measure of what still needs to be done."
As he signed the $390 billion omnibus budget bill Monday, Clinton noted that gun control is still on his to-do list, saying: "To curb gun violence and keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and children, we still need sensible gun safety legislation."
Handgun Control, the nation's largest gun control group, this year increased lobbying outlays about fivefold over 1998 levels. It spent $340,000 from January through June, compared with $60,000 during the same period in 1998, according to reports filed with Congress.
Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association, the country's best-known advocate of gun owners' rights, reported that it poured $850,000 into its lobbying effort during this year's first six months, compared with $750,000 a year ago.