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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release November 7, 1998

President Clinton Helping to Prevent Illegal Firearms Sales

November 7, 1998

In his radio address to the nation, President Clinton will direct the Secretary of the Treasury and Attorney General to recommend, within 60 days, what actions the Administration can take to ensure that firearms sold at gun shows are not exempt from Brady background checks or other federal gun laws.

Closing the Gun Show Loophole

Deterring illegal gun sales at gun shows. Every year, about 5 million people attend an estimated 5,000 gun shows that take place in convention centers, school gyms, and on fairgrounds across the country. And while most people who buy and sell guns at gun shows are law-abiding citizens, a dangerous trend is emerging. Under current law, firearms can be -- and an untold number are -- bought and sold at these shows without background checks or records being kept. This loophole makes gun shows prime targets for criminals and gun traffickers, and often thwarts needed law enforcement efforts to trace firearms used in crimes.

Following Florida's lead. This week, Florida voters overwhelmingly passed a statewide ballot initiative requiring sellers at gun shows to adhere to the same standards as properly licensed gun dealers. Specifically, the initiative allows counties to require criminal history background checks and minimum waiting periods prior to firearms sales at gun shows and on other public property. In his radio address, the President will call on the Treasury Secretary and the Attorney General to recommend to him, within 60 days, the appropriate actions to take to close this loophole on the national level.

Strengthening the Brady Law

Final Brady provisions taking effect. After nearly 5 years of working with law enforcement agencies, last week the Attorney General certified that the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is set to take effect on November 30, 1998, as required by the Brady Law. The NICS will allow law enforcement officials access to a more inclusive set of records than is now available -- including information on criminal aliens, drug users, and persons subject to domestic violence restraining orders. Under the NICS, federally-licensed gun dealers will be required to call a state point-of-contact or FBI representative through an 800 number, and relay a prospective gun purchaser's information. For the vast majority of cases, the sale will be approved within minutes. Where there are discrepancies, the FBI will have up to 3 days to clarify a record, and approve or deny the gun sale.

Millions more firearms sales to be covered. As of November 30th, the Brady Law will be strengthened in 2 additional ways: (1) purchases of all firearms, not just handguns, will be subject to Brady background checks; and (2) pawnshop redemptions, which are 4 times as likely to involve a prohibited purchaser, will be subject to background checks for the first time. Overall, it is estimated that the number of background checks conducted nationally will increase from about 4 million to between 10 and 12 million.