Congress challenged on handgun licences

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 January, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 January, 2000, 12:00am

Bill Clinton wants Americans to have more access to health care, better schools and safer cities.

With an eye on a troubled legacy, he used what could be his last major domestic speech to call for continued 'revolution' to ensure a 'more perfect union' - spreading the benefits of what is poised to be America's greatest boom to the widest number of people.

Calling for US$350 billion (HK$2,700 billion) worth of tax cuts and a similar amount of spending, he issued a challenge to the Republican-led Congress that has at times been so hostile to his leadership.

'Now, we must shape a 21st century American revolution,' he said. 'Never before has our nation enjoyed, at once, so much prosperity and social progress with so little internal crisis or so few external threats.

'Never before have we had such a blessed opportunity - and therefore such a profound obligation - to build the more perfect union of our founders' dreams.' Echoing his New Year address, he appealed to America's highest motives, saying it was a young nation that must remain 'forever young'.

He outlined a series of tax cuts aimed to help lower and middle-income families get better access to health care and educational opportunities. And in a surprise move, he called for all states to issue photo licences before gun purchases and pledged an extra 50,000 police for America's tough city streets.

'Every state in this country already requires hunters and automobile drivers to have a licence. I think they ought to do the same thing for handgun purchases,' he said.

'I hope you'll help me pass that in this Congress.' Both sides of the house put aside past controversies to grant Mr Clinton a standing ovation as he entered the hall for an address free of the baggage of the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the impeachment vote of the year before.

However, such niceties are set to swiftly evaporate as his initiatives must still be debated by the House of Representatives and Senate.