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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 25, 1994
                            PRESS BRIEFING

The Briefing Room

2:40 P.M. EST

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOBLE: Good afternoon. Thank you for coming today to discuss the implementation of the Brady Act, which goes into effect next Monday.

After a seven-year struggle in the Congress, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act was signed into law by President Clinton on November 30, 1993. It is the most significant gun law curtailing criminal access to handguns since the 1968 Gun Control Act.

Each year, nearly 7.5 million firearms are sold at retail in the U.S., about half of them handguns. Until now, those guns have been sold primarily on an honor system, wherein the purchasers ensure the sellers they are legally entitled to buy firearms. On February 28, 1994, retail sales of handguns will be preceded by background checks. Honest, law-abiding citizens will be able to continue to purchase firearms; criminals will not. At least not without law enforcement first having an opportunity to prevent the sale.

The Brady Act is complex, and requires close cooperation between the private sector and law enforcement. It also requires close cooperation among local, state and federal officials.

Allow me to explain the mechanics of Brady. A handgun purchaser must fill out a form stating that he or she intends to purchase a handgun and is not in one of the prohibitive categories, such as convicted felon, under indictment, or drug addict. The seller must transmit the form to the chief law enforcement officer of the purchaser's residence within 24 hours.

Each state designates which law enforcement organization will serve this role. Law enforcement is required to make a reasonable effort to determine whether the prospective purchaser is legally prohibited from purchasing a firearm. If law enforcement determines that the buyer is prohibited, they can stop the sale. If law enforcement has not informed the dealer within five business days that the sale must be stopped, the sale may be completed. They can stop the sale. If law enforcement has not informed the dealer within five business days that the sale must be stopped, the sale may be completed.

Treasury's regulations for implementing the waiting period and background check for the purchaser of handguns were printed on February 14 -- two weeks before the deadline -- to ensure that all affected parties had an adequate opportunity to understand their new responsibilities. Their is a 90-day comment period before regulations are finalized for us to get the feedback and find out how it's going.

Several informational mass mailings have been sent to the 284,000 current federal firearms licensees and the thousands of state and local law enforcement offices around the country. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has conducted numerous meetings with state and local law enforcement officials to advise them of their responsibilities and to tailor the implementation process to the needs of each state.

The law allows for several state exemptions to the Brady background check: One, if there's a state system in place which requires a permit to purchase a handgun; and two, if the state already has an adequate background check system in place. Thirtyfour states and territories will be required to implement Brady on Monday. In addition, certain transactions may be exempt from Brady: one, if it had been certified impracticable because of remote geographic location and a lack of telecommunications facilities; or, two, if the purchaser has received a law enforcement waiver based upon threats against the lives of the purchaser or the purchaser's family.

The waiting period will sunset in five years, at which time a new automated instant check system is to be instituted. The Department of Justice's response -- for developing the automated data system to be accessed in the instant check. This system will be used for the purchase of all firearms, not just handguns, beginning in 1999.

With me today, I have Bob Creighton -- ask him to come forward -- who's a Special Agent in Charge of the Miami Division of ATF; and Brad Buckles, ATF's Counsel.

At this point we're available for questions.

Q Why only 34 states?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOBLE: Only 34 states because there are certain states which already comply with the intent of Brady. That is, they're already doing a background check before individuals purchase firearms.

Q Do you all have any estimates of how many sales that you'll stop in a given month?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOBLE: Let me ask Bob to take that question.

MR. CREIGHTON: We know from the experience of the states that had instant check systems an alternative systems up that they've excluded already thousands. So we can assume that throughout the 50 states when it's fully implemented, there will be many thousands of sales which are excluded each year.

Q There is at least one -- I believe it was a sheriff in Arizona who said he's not going to do checks; he doesn't have the money, the manpower. What are you going to do about that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOBLE: Well, it's very important that local law enforcement officers do the check. And we're confident that with the proper coordination and cooperation with us at the federal level, we can assist them in whatever way possible. So we expect that people will do the checks.

Local law enforcement wanted this. This is not something the federal government is forcing upon state and local law enforcement. This is something state and local law enforcement officers have been seeking for some time.

Q You say the exclusions, thousands of them? What were they based on?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOBLE: They're based on people obtaining firearms -- people trying to obtain firearms with criminal records, with felony violations.

Q Are they all criminal records, is that the basic --


Q When you say the regulation -- 30-day comment period --


Q I'm sorry, 90-day comment period -- in other words, the regulations that were published are proposed regulations or are they actually in place?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOBLE: They're actually effective now, but during the 90 days that follow, we will get feedback and see if we have to amend them or tailor them in some other way.

Q They are in effect now?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOBLE: They are in effect, beginning Monday.

In other questions? Thank you very much.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END2:46 P.M. EST