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Clinton to crack down on weapons imports

President Clinton is planning to limit imports of foreign assault-style weapons that have been modified to circumvent a federal ban.

Clinton is expected to sign a two-part directive that would suspend pending and future applications to import modified assault weapons, White House officials said Wednesday. The directive also would examine the criteria used to allow import of nonsporting weapons and adjust that criteria as necessary.The National Rifle Association denounced the plan as a backhanded attempt to curtail Americans' right to bear arms.

"This is the most disturbing step in 50 years to ban an entire class of firearms," said Wayne LaPierre, NRA executive vice president. "What is next to be banned? The Benelli semiautomatic shotgun like the one the president used for duck hunting?"

White House spokesman Mike McCurry said Clinton is concerned that certain types of weapons are being sneaked into the United States with only a few cosmetic changes to avoid a 1994 ban.

"We now are seeing manufacturers who are able, in a sense, to clone assault weapons and slip underneath the standards that exist," McCurry said.

The president's directive would affect about 30 weapons, said senior adviser Rahm Emanuel. He would not say when Clinton would issue the order.

Thirty Democratic senators, led by Dianne Feinstein of California, wrote Clinton last month asking that he temporarily suspend imports of all semiautomatic weapons to block an Israeli manufacturer's export of thousands of modified military-style weapons for commercial sale.