PRESIDENT CLINTON ANNOUNCES COMPREHENSIVE LEGISLATION
TO KEEP GUNS AWAY FROM YOUTH AND CRIMINALS
April 27, 1999
Today, President Clinton will announce new legislation to strengthen
federal firearms laws and make it more difficult for kids and criminals
to have access to guns and explosives. The President's package
represents the most comprehensive gun legislation any Administration has
put forward in 30 years. The proposed bill will include new proposals
to: (1) reduce illegal gun running by limiting the purchase of handguns
to no more than one per month; (2) raise the age of the youth handgun
ban from 18 to 21 years of age; (3) ban the juvenile possession of
semi-automatic assault rifles; (4) halt the importation of large
capacity ammunition magazines; (5) require Brady background checks for
the purchase of explosives; (6) help law enforcement trace more crime
guns to their source; and (7) authorize repeat inspections to crack down
on gun dealers involved in illegal gun trafficking.
BUILDING ON THE SUCCESS OF THE BRADY LAW. Since taking effect in 1994,
the Brady Law has prevented over a quarter million felons, fugitives,
stalkers, and other prohibited purchasers from buying handguns. In
November 1998, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System
(NICS) took effect, allowing access to a fuller set of records that law
enforcement officials can use to conduct checks of all prospective gun
purchases -- not just for handguns. To date, NICS has conducted over
3.4 million background checks on gun purchasers, and the FBI has stopped
over 36,000 illegal gun sales. The President's legislation will propose
strengthening the Brady Law by:
Extending the Brady Law's requirements to purchases of explosives.
Under current law, no Brady background check is required to buy
explosives. The President's bill would help cut off easy access to
explosives by requiring Brady background checks before the sale of
explosives, and by extending the same prohibitions in our gun laws
to prospective purchasers of explosives. The bill would also
prohibit convicted felons from purchasing any quantity of black
powder, which is used to make most pipe bombs, and require all
explosives dealers to keep records of their sales of black powder.
Closing the gun show loophole on Brady background checks. In 1998,
there were more than 4,000 gun shows held throughout the country as
well as flea markets and other events at which guns could be traded
anonymously. An estimated 25-50 percent of the sellers at such gun
shows are unlicensed, and the guns sold by the unlicensed sellers
are not subject to background checks. As a result, gun shows can
provide a forum for illegal firearms sales and gun trafficking. In
fact, a recent review by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and
Firearms (ATF) of 314 gun show investigations found that 46 percent
of these investigations involved the purchase or sale of firearms
by felons, and 34 percent involved the sale of firearms later used
in serious crimes, including homicides. To end this policy of
firearms being sold at gun shows on a "no questions asked" basis,
the President's bill requires : (1) Brady background checks on all
firearms transferred at gun shows, with the assistance of
federally-licensed dealers; (2) vendors to report information on
firearms sold at gun shows to the ATF , so that they can be traced
by law enforcement if they are later used in crimes; and (3) gun
show promoters to register with the ATF and notify it of all gun
Creating a mandatory Brady waiting period. Although the NICS has
generally improved law enforcement's ability to conduct background
checks, a mandatory waiting period would provide a cooling-off
period for handgun purchases and allow local law enforcement
officers to check additional, non-computerized records.
Accordingly, the President's legislation would: (1) require a
minimum 3-day waiting period for all handgun purchases; (2) add up
to an additional two days to the waiting period if law enforcement
officers need more time to clarify arrest records; and (3) provide
authority for dealers to notify local law enforcement officials of
all proposed handgun purchases.
Extending the Brady Law to violent juveniles. Although violent
youth convicted in adult courts are barred from owning firearms as
adults, the same is not true for youth convicted of serious violent
crimes in juvenile court. Violent juveniles should be treated as
adults for their adult crimes, and stopped from getting weapons to
hurt again. The President's legislation would permanently ban all
violent juveniles from buying guns, so that they could not purchase
a gun on their 21st birthday.
RESTRICTING YOUTH ACCESS TO GUNS. Keeping guns out of the hands of
juveniles has been one of President Clinton's top priorities. He fought
for and signed legislation prohibiting the juvenile possession of
handguns, requiring "zero tolerance" for guns in schools and
establishing the Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative (YCGII) to help
identify and arrest adults who traffic guns to children. The
President's bill does even more to restrict unauthorized youth access to
Raising the age of the youth handgun ban to 21 years of age. In
1994, President Clinton signed into law the Youth Handgun Safety
Act, which generally banned the possession of handguns by juveniles
under the age of 18, and prohibited adults from transferring
handguns to juveniles -- except in limited circumstances. A
separate provision of the 1968 Gun Control Act also prohibits
federally-licensed gun dealers from selling handguns to any one
under 21 years of age. However, it is perfectly legal for 18-20
year-olds to possess handguns -- and even to buy them from
unlicensed sellers, such as from a neighbor who is a private
collector. Additionally, ATF gun trace data show that the more
crime guns are traced to 18 and 19-year-olds than all other age
groups. The President's legislation would extend the provisions of
the youth handgun ban to youth between 18 and 21 years of age.
Banning juvenile possession of semiautomatic assault rifles.
Although the Youth Handgun Safety Act generally banned the
possession of assault pistols, it did not include assault rifles
and large capacity magazines manufactured before the Assault
Weapons Ban went into effect. Thus, it remains legal for juveniles
under the age of 18 to possess these deadly weapons and ammunition.
The President's bill prohibits their possession by juveniles in any
Holding adults responsible for child access to guns. Child Access
Prevention (CAP) laws promote gun safety and responsibility by
holding adults responsible if they allow children easy access to
loaded firearms. According to a study published by the Journal of
the American Medical Association, CAP laws help reduce fatal
unintentional shootings by an average of 23%. The President's
legislation would impose felony penalties on adults who knowingly
or recklessly allow a child to have unlawful access to a gun that
is later used to cause death or injury. Individuals sentenced
under this provision could be imprisoned for up to three years,
fined a maximum of $250,000, or both.
Requiring child safety locks for guns. Child safety locks and
other devices can reduce the unauthorized use of handguns, by a
child at play or a teen looking to commit a crime. Many youth have
to look no further than their own home to get their hands on a gun:
it is estimated that one-third of all privately-owned handguns are
left both loaded and unlocked. To address this problem, the
President's bill requires federally-licensed firearms dealers,
manufacturers, and importers to provide a child safety lock or
device with every gun they sell.
Increasing penalties for transferring guns to juveniles. The
President's bill would increase penalties for adults who transfer
handguns to juveniles knowing that they will be used in a violent
crime -- establishing a new mandatory minimum sentence of at least
3 years and up to 10 years.
CRACKING DOWN ON ILLEGAL GUN TRAFFICKERS. In 1996, President Clinton
launched the Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative (YCGII) in 17
cities to help trace crime guns to their source, as well as identify and
arrest the adults who traffic firearms to our children. Since that
time, YCGII has been expanded to 20 more cities and has conducted more
than 200,000 traces for local law enforcement. Additionally, over the
last two years the President has proposed hiring more than 280 new ATF
agents and more than 40 new federal prosecutors to arrest gun
traffickers and violent criminals, and crack down on illegal gun sales.
Reduce illegal gun running by limiting handgun sales to no more
than one per month. The President's legislation would crack down
on gun trafficking by limiting handgun sales to any individual a
maximum of one per month. Gun runners should not be able to
circumvent Brady background checks, and employ "straw purchasers"
or persons not prohibited from purchasing firearms -- to buy
guns in bulk and divert them to the street. The President's bill
would implement a national system as soon as practicable to limit
handgun sales to one per month.
Allowing law enforcement to trace all firearms used in crimes.
Under current law it is much more difficult for law enforcement to
trace used firearms later used in crimes than it is to trace new
guns later used in crimes. To improve law enforcement's ability to
trace crime guns, the President's legislation requires that federal
gun dealers also report the manufacturer, model, and serial number
of all used guns sold to ATF's National Tracing Center. No
information on the purchaser would be provided to ATF unless the
gun later became the subject of a crime gun trace.
Doubling the Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative (YCGII). Over
the past 2 years, the President has expanded the YCGII initiative
to 37 cities -- helping them to trace all crime guns to their
source, to identify illegal gun markets, and to crack down on gun
traffickers. Last year, ATF initiated over 300 investigations in
these cities, which involved over 3,300 illegally trafficked
firearms. The President's bill would increase the number of cities
participating in YCGII over the next 4 years to a total of 75.
Increasing penalties on gun kingpins. To send a strong message to
gun runners that their illegal gun trafficking will not be
tolerated, the President's bill doubles the maximum penalty for
illegally selling firearms without a license (from 5 to 10 years of
imprisonment), and instructs the U.S. Sentencing Commission to
enhance the current penalty for offenses where over 50 firearms
have been illegally trafficked.
Cracking down on gun dealers involved in illegal gun trafficking.
While most gun dealers are not associated with unlawful activities,
some are involved in the illegal gun trade. The President's
legislation allows for more inspections of federal firearms
licensees (from 1 to 3 per year), tougher penalties for serious
violations that interfere with trafficking investigations, and
suspension of a gun dealer's license for willful violations of the
Gun Control Act.
STRENGTHENING THE ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN. In 1994, the President fought
for and signed into law legislation to ban the manufacture and
importation of the 19 deadliest assault weapons, their copies, and large
capacity ammunition clips. Last year, the President also to took action
to ban the importation of over 50 models of modified assault weapons.
The President's bill strengthens the assault weapons law by:
Banning the importation of all large capacity ammunition magazines.
Although the 1994 assault weapons law banned the future domestic
manufacture and importation of large capacity ammunition feeding
devices that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, those
manufactured before the law's enactment were grandfathered.
Because of the difficulty in determining when large capacity
ammunition magazines manufactured by foreign companies were made,
it has become relatively easy for foreign gun manufacturers to
circumvent the ban. The President's bill would close this loophole
by banning the importation of all large capacity magazines --
regardless of when they were manufactured.