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Gunman fires on White House

A gunman standing next to tourists along Pennsylvania Avenue pulled an assault-style rifle from his trench coat Saturday and took aim at the White House. He fired at least 20 shots, but no one was injured.

"The president was in no danger whatsoever," said Richard Griffin, assistant Secret Service director.

Two bystanders tackled the gunman as he tried to put another ammunition clip in his rifle, and Secret Service agents scaled the iron White House fence and arrested him.

President Clinton, who only hours before had arrived from an overnight flight from the Middle East, was watching a football game in the official residence when he heard the crackle of the shots.

"He's fine," said White House chief of staff Leon Panetta. "He heard the same thing all of us heard, which was the cracks."

Griffin said the gunman had a Chinese-made SKS semiautomatic assault rifle, which is similar to the more widely known AK-47. He fired 20 to 30 rounds, Griffin said.

Several rounds hit the mansion, several more hit the West Wing, where Clinton's office is, and one round went through a window in the press briefing room, also in the West Wing. A senior White House official said glass on all windows that count in terms of presidential security are bulletproof.

No one in the briefing room, the scene of many presidential news conferences, was hurt.

Panetta said Chelsea, the president's daughter, was not at the White House and Hillary Rodham Clinton was in California. "We'll go to church tomorrow and be thankful no one was injured," he said.

Officials said there were no plans to alter the president's nearly non-stop week of campaigning in the final week before midterm elections.

At a dinner Saturday for the National Italian American Foundation, Clinton joked: "It's nice to be back in the safety and security of the White House after going to the Middle East." Then, turning serious, he thanked security agents and the public for their quick actions.

Griffin said there was "no known motive" for the attack and there was "no reason to think he was not acting alone."

"I would not characterize this as an assassination attempt, no way," he said. CNN, however, was reporting late Saturday night that the White House was no longer ruling out an attempt on Clinton's life.

Duran was taken by Secret Service agents for questioning to a field office, where he invoked his right to an attorney. "He's not saying anything anyway," special agent Tim Cahill said.

The SKS Chinese semiautomatic rifle, which sells for about $100, has been banned from import into the United States since May. There are more than 1-million SKS rifles in circulation in the United States.

At the White House, investigators swarmed over a brown pickup truck parked nearby believed to be Duran's. The pickup, with Colorado plates, had bumper stickers with these slogans: "Fire Butch Reno," an apparent reference to Attorney General Janet Reno, and "Those who beat their guns into plows will plow for those who don't."

The shooting occurred at 3 p.m. on an tranquil, sun-dappled day otherwise ideal for Washington's legion of tourists. Many often linger at the North Gate of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue hoping to catch a glimpse of the president or other dignitaries. Saturday was no different. The man who witnesses said fired the shots apparently stood along the tall, black iron gates for nearly an hour. One couple said he even took a photograph for them.

He wore a khaki-colored trench coat and was nondescript until he opened the coat, raised his rifle and opened fire.

Griffin said the Secret Service has long maintained that Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House be sealed off.

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