Today's Papers

Gulliver’s Battles

All three papers lead with the House’s overwhelming, bipartisan defeat of gun control legislation by a vote of 280-147, all but ending an issue that has consumed Congress since the Columbine shootings in April. The bill was opposed by nearly all Democrats, who thought the bill too weak, and many Republicans, who thought it too strong. All papers off-lead with Kosovo news, including the increasing militancy and institutional permanence of the KLA and a jurisdictional agreement struck by NATO and Russian peacekeepers.

Support for the House bill fell apart Thursday when gun-rights supporters passed an NRA-backed amendment that undercut language adopted by the Senate last month. Besides regulating gun show sales, the bill defeated yesterday also would have banned the importation of large ammunition clips, banned the sale of semi-automatic rifles to juveniles, and required handguns to have trigger locks. All papers describe the labyrinthine politics behind the vote, with pols positioning themselves for perceived advantage in the 2000 election. Also widely noted is the surprising efficacy of the NRA despite the political fallout of Columbine. The Washington Post says the defeat of post-Columbine gun control attempts “hands the NRA its most dramatic legislative victory in years.”

All papers note the significance of the NATO-Russia accord, which the Los Angeles Times describes as “an unprecedented degree of military cooperation” for such recent military rivals. 3,600 Russian peacekeepers (the LAT says 2,850) will be divided among three of five sectors controlled by different NATO countries. In exchange for not getting their own sector–which NATO feared would become a ghetto of ethnic Serb refugees–Russian troops will report only to Russian commanders. As in Bosnia, the top Russian commander will work with the top NATO commander but will report only to Moscow.

The LAT and New York Times report that the KLA has formed its own government in Kosovo without legal mandate. (Under NATO’s agreement with Belgrade, the U.N. is supposed to govern the province.) The KLA claims it is just filling a vacuum left by fleeing ethnic Serbs, but NATO says the rebels, who have yet to be disarmed, intend to scare any remaining Serbs out of the province. All papers report a German raid on KLA vigilantes in Prizren, with the WP adding that the 25 rebels had been beating 15 elderly gypsies.

All papers front the announcement by the G-7 that it intends to relieve the world’s poorest nations of about half of their debt, totaling $65 billion -$70 billion, provided they steer the savings to education and health programs, particularly AIDS prevention. The G-7 countries, at a summit meeting to discuss the war in Kosovo and relations with Russia, said up to 70 percent of the debt, or $90 billion, could be relieved if other industrialized nations pitch in.

The LAT and NYT front, and the WP puts on Page 3, the presumed hate-crime arson of three synagogues in Sacramento. A note found at one of the synagogues blames the war in Kosovo on the “North Atlantic Terrorist Organization” and the “International Jewsmedia.” The FBI will investigate the fires, which started within a half-hour of each other and caused $1 million in damage.

The NYT and WP reefer a report by a national gambling commission calling for a moratorium on the recent growth of legalized gambling, especially on so-called “convenience gambling” in neighborhoods. The report called for a national minimum gambling age of 21, a ban on state and local political donations by casinos, and a reduction in advertising budgets for state lotteries. According to the Post, “the report says Americans lost $50 billion in gambling last year.” “Lost” how? Isn’t this an entertainment expense?

A NYT correction reads: “Because of an editing error, an article on Wednesday about the confrontation between South Korean and North Korean ships in the Yellow Sea referred incorrectly to the ammunition the South fired. It was 76-millimeter rounds, not .76-millimeter.” Coming soon: Attack of the Indochinese Lilliputians.