President Clinton met Tuesday with the parents of a 16-year-old Japanese exchange student who was shot and killed by a Louisiana homeowner who mistook him for an intruder.
Masaichi and Mieko Hattori spent about 15 minutes with Clinton at the White House talking about their son, Yoshihiro. The teen-ager was killed in October, 1992, when he and another student, Webb Haymaker, mistakenly knocked on the door of Rodney Peairs’ house while looking for a nearby Halloween costume party.
The case drew worldwide attention as an example of the consequences of lax gun control in the United States. Peairs was later acquitted of manslaughter charges.
The couple, joined by members of the Haymaker family and representatives of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, handed Clinton a petition signed by 1.7 million Japanese urging Americans to ban handguns.
“We started the petition because we love America just as Yoshi did,” the parents said. “More than anything, we would like to see a relationship between Japan and the United States even better than now.”
Mrs. Hattori said she showed Clinton pictures of her son and put a no-handguns sticker on the lapel of his jacket.
“We felt it was a great honor to get an apology directly from the President,” Hattori told reporters through an interpreter.
The petition, he said, was an opportunity to urge Americans to “take the problem of gun violence more seriously and put an end to it.”
Michael Beard, president of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, which represents about 39 organizations nationwide, said a similar petition bearing the signatures of 120,000 Americans was given to members of Congress.
The couple, who are in the United States for about 10 days, are to meet with a group of local high school students later this week, Beard said.