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Demos say NRA wrote House gun bill; Hyde denies it

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congressional Democrats and President Clinton are complaining that the National Rifle Association is writing the House's gun-control bill.

"It is a bill plainly ghostwritten by the NRA," President Clinton said Wednesday. "They have been calling the shots on this issue for decades now, and we have failed to do what is manifestly in the interests of our children."Republicans fired right back, with Rep. Henry Hyde saying Democrats were "fantasizing. The NRA is a legitimate organization; they made known their views," said Hyde, who has inflamed the interest group in the past by authoring gun-control legislation. "The NRA did not write our bill."

The accusations are flying as the House takes its turn at cracking down on juvenile violence two months after two high school students in Littleton, Colo., murdered 12 of their classmates and a teacher before killing themselves.

The Senate started the process last month when it narrowly passed legislation that would require mandatory background checks on all firearms transactions at gun shows and pawn shops; safety locks or other devices to be sold with all new handguns; a ban on the importation of high capacity ammunition clips; mandatory prison sentences for felons committing crimes with guns, and a lifetime ban on gun ownership for any juvenile convicted of a felony.

The Senate measure did not contain a provision to raise the minimum age for possession of handguns from 18 to 21, which is supported by Clinton, Hyde and House Speaker Dennis Hastert. But others in the Republican leadership oppose that provision, and its fate in the House is uncertain.

The GOP gun legislation has yet to be unveiled, but Hyde, R-Ill., who will co-sponsor the bill with Rep. Bill McCollum, R-Fla., when it comes to the floor next week, bristled at the suggestion that the NRA dominated the drafting process.

He said the bill was a compromise "between a lot of people," including the NRA.

NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said that while the Hyde-McCollum bill addressed the group's demands, such as more narrowly defining gun shows than the Senate version, the sponsors had not agreed to other requests.