News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

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Republicans Weigh In on Piscataway

Eight Republican senators have filed a brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to find in favor of a white teacher involved in an affirmative action case that is one of the most-watched issues facing the high court this session.

The case, Piscataway Township Board of Education v. Sharon Taxman, involves the Piscataway, N.J., school board's 1989 decision to lay off Ms. Taxman, who is white, while keeping a black teacher with equal seniority and largely equivalent qualifications, in the interests of racial diversity. ("Layoff Case Is Personal in N.J. School," Oct. 8, 1997.)

The GOP senators, led by Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, wrote in the friend-of-the-court brief that the justices could uphold a lower court decision in favor of Ms. Taxman while still protecting workplace diversity. Many Republicans have favored dismantling affirmative action programs based on racial preferences and have cited the case in supporting their cause.

The court is expected to hear arguments in the case this winter and make its decision by July.

Gun Makers Agree to 'Childproofing'

Eight major gun manufacturers have agreed to provide so-called childproof trigger locks with all their handguns, in a move strongly supported by President Clinton.

Mr. Clinton had urged lawmakers to consider legislation on the matter earlier this year, but agreed to drop the request after the companies settled on the voluntary agreement.

"This will affect eight of 10 handguns made in America, and it will save many young lives," the president said in a speech to law-enforcement officials this month. "I hope soon our other handgun makers will follow your lead," he said to company representatives.

The Department of Justice estimates that about 22 million privately owned handguns are kept loaded and unlocked. About 1,500 children are treated in emergency rooms each year for unintentional gun injuries, and nearly 200 children died from accidental gunshot wounds in 1994, according to Justice Department figures.

In March, Mr. Clinton signed an executive order directing all federal law-enforcement officials to carry guns with childproof locks.

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