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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release November 14, 1997


OAS Convention Against Illicit Firearms Trafficking

The United States and its partners in the Organization of American States today signed the Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, the first international agreement designed to prevent, combat, and eradicate illegal trafficking in firearms, ammunition, and explosives.

The Convention will make the citizens of the hemisphere safer by helping to shut down the gray and black arms markets that fuel the violence associated with drug trafficking, terrorism, and international organized crime. The initiative responds to President Clinton's call to the international community three years ago at the United Nations, and is part of the Administration's broader efforts -- with our partners in the Summit of the Eight and through independent steps -- to address this serious transnational danger.

Initially proposed by Mexico and negotiated in the last seven months, the Convention is an outstanding example of the contribution that the OAS is making to the security of our hemisphere.

While strengthening our ability to eradicate illicit arms trafficking, this agreement protects the legal trade in firearms, and does not discourage or diminish the lawful ownership and use of firearms.

Key Provisions of the Convention

Export, Import, and Transit Licenses. To help ensure that arms are transferred to legitimate users, parties to the Convention are required to establish or maintain an effective licensing or authorization system for the export, import, and transit of firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials. States may not permit firearms to be exported or transited across their borders without proper licensing from the receiving and in-transit countries.

Marking of Firearms. To improve the ability to track down the sources of illegal firearms, parties to the Convention are obligated to require, at the time of manufacture, the marking of firearms with the name, place of manufacture, and serial number. Similar markings are required for imported firearms. U.S. manufacturers and importers currently follow this practice.

Criminalization of Illicit Arms Production and Sales. Nations that have not already done so are required to adopt laws and regulations criminalizing the illicit manufacture of and trafficking in firearms, ammunition, explosives, and related materials.

Information Exchange. Consistent with their national laws, parties will share information on legislative practices and other national measures to combat illicit trafficking; techniques used to combat money laundering related to illicit transfers; routes customarily used by criminal organizations engaged in illicit trafficking; and the means of concealment used and ways of detecting them.

Law Enforcement and Regulatory Cooperation. Parties agree to cooperate with one another in the effort to eradicate arms trafficking through the establishment of a single point of contact that will act as the formal liaison among states.

Technical Assistance and Training. States agree to cooperate to better ensure adequate training in such areas as identification and tracing; intelligence gathering; and detection methods and search protocols at borders.

The Administration's Program Against Illicit Trafficking

U.S. support for the OAS Convention is part of the Administration's broader effort to address the problem of illicit international firearms trafficking.

Monitoring Exports. At the request of the President, the State and Treasury Departments have undertaken an intensified country-by-country review of applications for licenses to export firearms, ammunition, and explosives from the United States to ensure that exported weapons are not diverted to illicit purposes.

OAS Model Regulations. The United States has worked with its OAS partners to produce Model Regulations governing the transfer of firearms. The Model Regulations to Control the Movement of Firearms, Ammunition, and Firearms Parts and Components, drafted by a group of experts of the OAS Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), were agreed in Lima earlier this month. The President has directed the State Department to begin to implement these regulations immediately and to encourage regulatory and licensing authorities in other countries to do the same.

Arms Brokering Legislation. The President has signed legislation amending the Arms Export Control Act to give the State Department greater authority to monitor and regulate the activities of arms brokers. The amendment closes a loophole in US law that had permitted brokers with US ties to act as middlemen for arms transactions conducted abroad, without being subject to US laws and regulations.

Vigilance at Our Borders. To ensure the continued integrity of our borders, the Administration has made prevention of illegal arms trafficking a priority. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and the U.S. Customs service have recently intensified their interdiction and investigative efforts at borders. The Attorney General has directed U.S. attorneys along the southwest border to begin a dedicated effort to prosecute traffickers, large and small, caught attempting to smuggle firearms across the border.

Residency Requirements for Gun Purchasers. To contribute to the safety of citizens on both sides of our southern border, the President announced earlier this year that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms will tighten up the residency requirements for aliens purchasing firearms from dealers in the United States. Regulations have been issued requiring aliens to prove they have been residents for at least 90 days in the state where they are trying to buy a gun.

International Cooperation. The United States is working with its partners in the Group of Eight and through the UN Crime Commission to expand cooperation on combating illicit arms trafficking.

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