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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 6, 1999
                           PRESIDENT CLINTON: 

                            February 6, 1999

Today, President Clinton will release a report from Treasury Secretary Rubin and Attorney General Reno, recommending actions the Administration can take to ensure that firearms sold at gun shows are not exempt from federal firearms laws, including the law requiring background checks. The President will accept their recommendations and also announce an increase of nearly $30 million in his FY 2000 budget to increase investigations and prosecutions of gun law violations, including those occurring at gun shows.

Findings of the Report. In response to a directive by the President last November, the Treasury and Justice Departments reviewed 314 gun show-related investigations conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), mostly between 1997 and 1998. The investigations involved more than 54,000 firearms and spanned a wide range of federal firearms violations. The review found the following:

     Number of gun shows.  In 1998, there were an estimated 4,442 gun 
     shows.  Most gun shows were sponsored by state and local firearms 
     collectors organizations, though some shows were promoted by 
     individual collectors and business people.  Ten states sponsored 
     the most gun shows:  TX (472); PA (250); FL (224); IL (203); 
     CA (188); IN (180); NC (170); OR (160); OH (148); and NV (129).

     Typical gun show.  The typical gun show costs about $5 to attend 
     and draws an average of between 2,500 and 5,000 people.  Vendors 
     rent tables for a fee ranging from $5 to $50, and the number of 
     tables varies from as few as 50 to as many as 2,000.  
     Federally-licensed firearms dealers (FFLs) make up about 50 to 75 
     percent of vendors, with unlicensed gun sellers representing the 
     remaining 25 to 50 percent.  Unlicensed gun sellers -- who are 
     assumed to be selling from their personal collections -- are not 
     required to conduct background checks or keep records of gun 
     sales.  Large quantities of firearms are also sold in less formal 
     and smaller public markets, such as flea markets.

     Guns sold.  The firearms sold at gun shows include new and used
     handguns, semiautomatic assault weapons, shotguns, rifles, and 
     curio and relic firearms (novel and older firearms).  Additionally,
     vendors often sell large capacity magazines, machine gun parts, 
     and a wide variety of other paraphernalia (knives, ammunition, 
     military artifacts, and books).

     Forum for illegal sales and trafficking.  Gun shows provide a 
     forum for illegal firearms sales and gun trafficking.  Of the 314 
     gun show investigations reviewed, 46 percent involved the purchase 
     or sale of firearms by felons, and 34 percent involved the sale of 
     firearms later used in serious crimes, including homicides.  Other 
     gun law violations observed at gun shows included:  the sale of 
     firearms without a federal gun license (more than 50 percent of 
     the cases reviewed); the sale of firearms "off the books" -- 
     without conducting a background check or keeping a record (about 
     20 percent of cases); and the sale or transfer of machine guns in
     violation of federal law (20 percent of cases).  More than a third 
     of the investigations involved more than 50 firearms, and at least 
     one investigation involved up to 10,000 firearms.

     The Report's Recommendations.  To close the gun-show loophole that 

allows countless firearms to be sold on a "no questions asked" basis, the President will endorse all of the report's recommendations and support legislation, to be introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Representative Rod Blagojevich (D-IL), that will make them the law of the land. These recommendations include:

     (1) Requiring Brady background checks on all firearms transferred 
     at gun shows, with the assistance of federally-licensed dealers.
     Currently, an estimated 25-50 percent of all firearms sold at gun
     shows are not subject to background checks, because they are sold 
     by an unlicensed seller.  The new legislation will require the
     participation of licensed dealers in all sales at gun shows, so 
     that all sales will be subject to the Brady background check 

     (2) Requiring vendors to report information on firearms sold at 
     gun shows to the ATF.  Gun dealers would submit certain 
     information (e.g., manufacturer, model, serial number) on firearms 
     transferred at gun shows to ATF's National Tracing Center and 
     maintain additional information on file to assist in future 
     firearms tracing requests by law enforcement.  These requirements 
     would ensure that firearms sold at gun shows cannot (as they so 
     often do now) disappear without a trace.

     (3) Requiring gun show promoters to register with the ATF and 
     notify it of all gun shows.  Promoters would have to provide the 
     time and location of gun shows and a list of vendors; provide 
     vendors with information about their legal obligations; and 
     require vendors to acknowledge receipt of this information.

     (4) Defining gun shows broadly.  These requirements would apply to 
     any place where 50 or more firearms are offered for sale by at 
     least two vendors.

     (5) Increasing resources to combat the illegal trade of firearms 
     at gun shows.

     New Resources for Firearms Enforcement.  Consistent with the 

report's findings and recommendations, the President's FY 2000 budget includes over $28 million in new funds to enhance the enforcement of federal firearms laws, including:

     $23.8 million for more than 120 new ATF agents to support firearms
     investigations, arrest violent criminals and gun traffickers, and 
     crack down on illegal gun sales.

     $5 million for more than 40 additional federal prosecutors to 
     conduct intensive firearms prosecution projects targeting violent 
     felons who possess guns, armed drug traffickers, and illegal gun