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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release June 15, 1999
     President Clinton: Keeping Guns Out of the Hands of Criminals
                             June 15, 1999

President Clinton will announce the findings of a Justice Department report showing that, since taking effect in 1994, the Brady Law has blocked over 400,000 illegal gun sales - two-thirds of which involved purchasers with a previous felony conviction or current felony indictment. The President will also join a group of Members of Congress in challenging the House of Representatives to strengthen the successful Brady Law by passing legislation that: (1) requires Brady background checks at gun shows and flea markets, without NRA-sponsored loopholes; (2) raises the age of handgun ownership from 18 to 21; and (3) includes the other common sense measures already passed by the Senate that will help keep guns out of the hands of criminals and children.

The Brady Law: One of the Most Effective Law Enforcement Tools Ever

312,000 illegal handgun sales blocked in less than 5 years. The Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) will release a study showing that, under the interim provisions of the Brady Law, approximately 312,000 applications to buy handguns were rejected because background checks revealed the purchaser was prohibited by state or federal law from buying a handgun. The interim provisions of the Brady Law, which were in effect from 3/1/94 to 11/29/98, allowed designated state and local law enforcement officials up to five business days to conduct background checks of all prospective handgun purchasers. The BJS report also finds that:

90,000 additional gun sales blocked by NICS in 6 months. The Justice Department will also report today that, during its first six months of operation, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) blocked an estimated 90,000 illegal gun sales. The NICS, which was mandated by the Brady Law and replaced its interim provisions last November, 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. Just six months after the NICS' implementation:

The House Vote: An Opportunity to Strengthen the Brady Law

This week the House will have an important opportunity to make the Brady Law even more effective - and to help stop even more felons, fugitives, and stalkers from getting access to guns. That is why the President will call on the House to put the interests of the American people over the clout of the gun lobby and pass effective gun legislation that:

     Closes the gun show loophole.  The President will insist that the
     House pass a bill that closes the gun show loophole once and for
     all by extending the same Brady background checks that have proven
     effective on all sales at gun shows.  He will ask House members to
     reject the phony reforms that were already defeated in the Senate,

        - Flawed definitions of gun shows.  The gun lobby is advocating
        for a narrower definition of "gun show" that would not cover
        flea markets and other such commercial venues where hundreds of
        guns are regularly bought and sold.

        - Abbreviated Brady background checks.  The gun lobby wants to
        reduce the amount of time law enforcement has to complete a
        Brady background check at gun shows.  Although more than 70
        percent of background checks are completed within minutes, and
        nearly 95 percent within a 2-hour period, the remaining 5
        percent take longer for a reason: they are much more likely to
        turn up a problem and result in a denial.  If proposals to
        shorten background checks at gun shows to between 24 and 72
        hours were applied to the NICS, the FBI estimates that between
        9,000 and 17,000 prohibited persons would have been able to buy
        guns over the past six months.

        - Safe harbor for criminals.  By creating a new class of
        "instant check registrants" to do background checks at gun
        shows, the gun lobby's proposals will undermine law enforcement
        efforts to trace firearms that are later used in crimes.  Unlike
        federally-licensed gun dealers, "instant check registrants" will
        not have to keep the same records, and they will not face the
        threat of losing their license if they do not cooperate fully
        with law enforcement authorities.  Criminals will know that guns
        bought and sold at gun shows will continue to be untraceable by
        law enforcement.

        - Interstate gun sales.  For more than 30 years, federal law has
        prohibited gun dealers from selling guns to private persons
        across state lines.  The gun lobby is pushing for an amendment
        that would allow federal gun dealers to ship guns directly to
        unlicensed buyers in other states.  This would greatly undermine
        the ability of states to control the flow of guns across their 

     Raises the age of handgun ownership from 18 to 21.  Several weeks
     ago, Speaker Hastert expressed support for such a proposal, and
     today the President will challenge the House to pass it into law.
     Yesterday, the Vice President announced the release of a report by
     the Treasury and Justice Departments making the case for this
     important provision.   The report found that:

        - Eighteen, nineteen and twenty year-olds ranked first, second
        and third among all age cohorts in the number of gun homicides
        committed in 1997.  Overall, these age groups accounted for 24
        percent of known gun murderers.

        - Offenders between 18 and 20 were more likely than offenders in
        any other age group to use a firearm to commit non-lethal
        violent crimes.

        - Crime guns recovered by law enforcement officials were more
        likely to have been possessed by 19 year-olds than any other age
        cohort, with 18 year-olds ranking a close second.  Overall,
        nearly 15 percent of crime guns traced were possessed by 18 to
        20 year-olds.

        - More than 80 percent of the crime guns recovered by law
        enforcement are handguns, especially semiautomatic pistols.

Includes the same common sense gun measures already passed by the Senate. The Senate-passed juvenile crime bill included additional measures to help keep guns out of the hands of criminals and children, including: a requirement that child safety locks be provided with every handgun sold; a total ban on the importation of large capacity ammunition magazines manufactured before they were outlawed in 1994; new penalties for gun kingpins; increased resources for federal firearms prosecutions; and an expansion of the President's initiative to crack down on illegal gun traffickers by tracing all crime guns to their source. The President is urging the House to pass these provisions as well.