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                    Office of the Press Secretary
                          (Cologne, Germany)
For Immediate Release                                      June 19, 1999
                             TO THE NATION

Cologne, Germany

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Good morning. Tomorrow will mark the two-month anniversary of the terrible school shooting in Littleton, Colorado. This tragedy shocked our nation, and galvanized our determination to protect our children from violence.

Together with the entertainment industry, we're finding new ways to reduce our children's exposure to graphic and gratuitous violence in movies, TV, and video games. Together with parents, teachers and community leaders, we're talking about how we can increase our involvement in our children's lives, and reach out to troubled young people before they act in violence; how together we can form a grass-roots campaign against violence directed at young children. Together as a nation, we're searching our hearts and minds for the best way to prevent anything like this from happening again.

Now, one of the most urgent lessons of Littleton -- and the plea of so many parents who've lost their own children to gun violence -- is that to keep our children safe we simply must do more to keep guns away from young people and out of the hands of criminals.

But time and again, the gun lobby has used every weapon in its arsenal to defeat any effort to strengthen our gun laws, no matter how sensible. This week it, sadly, happened again.

I sent to Congress a very sensible, moderate proposal to apply Brady background checks to gun shows. These are the same simple background checks that have now stopped 400,000 illegal gun sales without stopping a single legitimate purchaser from buying a gun over the last five years.

Thanks to a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Gore, the Senate did the right thing and passed this measure. But the sound of the gavel hadn't died in the Senate chamber before the gun lobby set its sights on the bill before the House of Representatives.

This week, the House of Representatives gutted our bill in the dark of night -- literally, after midnight -- because the gun lobby didn't want common-sense gun legislation to see the light of day.

That is unacceptable. We can't allow the gun lobby to rewrite our laws and undermine our values. So today, again, I say to Congress: You've still got an opportunity -- and you've still got an obligation -- to do the right thing and pass real legislation that will strengthen our gun laws, not weaken them. Pass a law that applies to all gun shows -- not one that lets criminals turn flea markets and parking lots into gun bazaars.

Pass a law that gives law enforcement enough time to run real background checks -- not one that lets more criminals slip through the cracks. Pass a law that closes the deadly gun show loophole once and for all.

Try this: Before you send me that final bill, ask yourselves questions that are on every American's mind: Will this bill make it easier or harder for criminals to get guns? Will more lives be lost, or more lives be saved? Is this about politics, or putting our children's safety first?

I say to the gun lobby again: I wish you would help us. Nobody is going to be hurt by this legislation. But we've overcome your scare tactics and strong-arm pressure before. We did it with the Brady law; we did it with the assault weapons ban. We've got the lowest crime rate in 25 years, the American people are safer and honest hunters and sportsmen haven't been hurt a bit. The American people understand that common-sense gun laws don't infringe our rights, they protect our lives. It's that simple.

This isn't a partisan issue anywhere else in America; it shouldn't be a partisan issue in Washington. Let us learn from the lessons of Littleton. Let us remember the children of Littleton, and indeed, honor the memory of all the children who lost their lives to gun violence in our country. Let's build a stronger and safer America for our kids in the 21st century.

Thanks for listening.