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GOP TRAINS SIGHTS ON GUN CURBS

Gun control has not stopped U.S. crime. But maybe it stopped a revolution in China, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, told the National Rifle Association on Tuesday.

"The people's guns are the citizens' last line of defense in the protection of liberty. If the people of Tiananmen Square had guns to protect themselves, the slaughter the world witnessed would not have occurred," Hatch said about the Chinese protest put down by army tanks and machine guns.So, Hatch said, Republicans will soon come out shooting against gun control laws passed by past Democratic congresses.

"Congress will need to re-examine federal gun control laws. Gun control has done nothing to reduce crime in America," said Hatch, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who even adorns his office with a flintlock rifle given to him by the NRA.

"I have been told that since 1934, not one legal, civilian-owned, fully automatic firearm has been used to commit a violent felony. This serves as further evidence that the crime problem in America cannot be laid at the feet of gun enthusiasts," he said.

He said that better than outlawing guns would be imposing tougher sentences for criminals who use them. The Clinton administration has decreased the number of federal prosecutions of violent crimes committed with firearms, he said.

Hatch added, "Incarceration for violent and habitual criminals will bring down crime rates through both incapacitation and deterrence."

He said Republicans will likely push to expand federal and state prison capacities to deter crime. Also, "We plan to pass a bill that will require that all able-bodied prisoners work, and we will need to make prisons a place where no criminal will want to return."

Hatch also urged the NRA to wage battle "on the pages of our newspapers and magazines and on radio and television" to improve the image of gun supporters by showing they care about crime, but that "we need crime control, not gun control."

He also wanted members to stress any instances where use of a firearm in self-defense stopped a crime.

Hatch also urged NRA members to attack arguments that the Second Amendment to the Constitution talks about only the right of state militia to bear arms, not the right of individuals.

Hatch said, "It recognizes an individual right, much like the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Amendments of the Bill of Rights."

The Second Amendment reads: "A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

Hatch said, "The right to keep and bear arms is inextricably connected to the individual's absolute and inalienable right of self-defense . . . It cannot be surrendered to the central government."