In a gesture aimed at recognizing Japan's sensitivities to violence in America, President Clinton today phoned and expressed his condolences to the parents of a Japanese high school exchange student who was shot to death in Louisiana last October.
Early this morning, Clinton talked by telephone for about 10 minutes with Masaichi and Maeko Hattori, the parents of the slain student, Yoshihiro Hattori. The youth's father said he hoped the incident would not get in the way of relations between the United States and Japan.
Yoshihiro, 16, was slain by a frightened homeowner outside Baton Rouge, La. Apparently confused over the address he was seeking, the teen-ager approached the wrong house as he was looking for a Halloween Party. The homeowner, Ronald Peairs, 32, confronted him with a handgun and shouted "Freeze!" but Hattori didn't understand the warning in English. Peairs then opened fire, killing him.
The Japanese public was angered by the shooting--and was even more outraged in May when a jury acquitted Peairs of a single manslaughter charge. His defense lawyer had pointed out that under Louisiana law, an individual may use deadly force to protect himself from an intruder, which Peairs testified he thought Hattori to be.
Since Hattori's death, Japan has begun to offer courses or other instruction to people traveling to the United States on such English-language street phrases as "Freeze," "Hands up" and "Don't move." In Japan, private citizens are not permitted to own or carry guns.
Clinton told the Hattoris that he is working on the so-called Brady bill, which includes a provision for a waiting period of five business days for Americans seeking to buy a handgun.
The Hattoris have said they plan to visit the United States to lobby on behalf of gun-control legislation.
Masaichi Hattori, the slain youth's father, asked to see the President when he comes to Washington in November. Clinton, without making a firm commitment, said he would do his best to meet the Hattoris.