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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 5, 1998

The Brady Law: Making a Bigger Difference Every Day

December 5, 1998

In his radio address to the nation, President Clinton will highlight the Brady Law's effectiveness in keeping guns out of the hands of criminals; challenge the gun lobby to stop trying to undermine the Brady Law through lawsuits and other means; and call on Congress to strengthen the Brady Law by requiring a waiting period for gun purchases, banning violent juveniles from owning guns, and plugging the law's gun show loophole. Specifically, the President will discuss:

NICS's successful first week. This week, after nearly 5 years of working with law enforcement agencies, the Justice Department successfully launched the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), as required by the Brady Law. The NICS allows law enforcement officials access to a more inclusive set of records than was previously available, and applies not just to handguns but to all firearms. It also requires federally-licensed gun dealers to call a state point-of-contact or FBI representative through an 800 number, and relay a prospective gun purchaser's information. If necessary, the FBI and states then have up to 3 days to clarify a record, and approve or deny the gun sale. According to initial estimates from the Justice Department, in its first four days of operation, the NICS:

Brady's strong record of success. NICS's success should come as no surprise. Since the Brady Law took effect in 1994, it has prevented an estimated 242,000 felons, fugitives, mentally unstable persons, and other prohibited purchasers from buying handguns.

Resisting the gun lobby's efforts to undermine the Brady Law. Less than 24 hours after the Brady Law's permanent provisions went into effect, the gun lobby held a press conference announcing that it was filing a lawsuit in federal court against the NICS -- and admitted that its goal was to "scale back" the Brady Law. The President will make clear his intention to fight the gun lobby's continual efforts to undermine the Brady Law.

Improving and expanding the Brady Law. The President will call on Congress to make the Brady Law even tougher and more effective by:

(1) Providing a permanent waiting period for handgun purchases. A minimum 3-day waiting period for all handgun purchases -- as well as an additional two days if more time is needed to clarify arrest records -- will allow law enforcement officers to check additional, non-computerized records and provide a cooling-off time for handgun purchases.

(2) Expanding Brady background checks to violent juveniles. Violent juveniles should be treated like adults for their adult crimes -- and be banned for life from buying firearms. This week, former Senator Bob Dole came out in support of this common sense legislation.

(3) Closing the gun show loophole. Under current law, firearms can be bought and sold by certain persons at gun shows without background checks. This loophole makes gun shows prime targets for criminals and gun traffickers. In response to the President's request, the Secretary of the Treasury and Attorney General will recommend ways to close this loophole and ensure that firearms sold at gun shows are not exempt from Brady background checks or other federal gun laws.