Representatives from the FBI, the Secret Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms could meet as early as next week to discuss a proposal to license handgun owners, government sources said Wednesday.

Those agencies and others in the federal government are working on what are called "protocols" - the interaction and communication between the agencies that would be responsible for enforcing licensing should the proposal ever become law.President Clinton has asked Attorney General Janet Reno to develop a study on licensing handgun owners.

When she served as prosecuting attorney for Dade County in Florida, Reno advocated that gun owners be tested and licensed the same way as automobile drivers, and she has continued that stance.

The proposal gained strength after a gunman killed six people and wounded 17 others on the Long Island Rail Road traveling from New York City on Dec. 7.

New York City's Republicn mayor-elect Rudolph Giuliani advanced the idea in a meeting with Clinton after the shootings. The president then asked Reno to come up with a study, though he did not formally endorse the proposal.

Police said the alleged gunman, angry at what he considered racist treatment, used a 9mm pistol in the slayings.

The administration already has proposed a ban on assault weapons as part of its anti-crime package. But officials conceded the ban would not have prevented the sale of the pistol, only the 15-round magazines allegedly used in the Long Island shootings.

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