View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 15, 2000


March 15, 2000

Joined by members of Congress, President Clinton today will unveil the FBI's first annual report on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) created under the Brady Law. The new report shows that in its first year of operation, the NICS stopped 179,000 felons, fugitives, domestic abusers, and other prohibited persons from buying guns. The President today also will highlight his budget proposal to make Brady checks even faster and more effective. Finally, he will urge Congress to resist the gun lobby by passing the motion Representative Lofgren will offer today calling on juvenile justice conferees to meet in the next two weeks, and by moving on gun safety legislation that has been stalled for over eight months.

RELEASING FIRST ANNUAL REPORT ON NATIONAL INSTANT CHECK SYSTEM. Today's report confirms that the NICS is a powerful tool to help law enforcement and federally-licensed gun dealers keep guns out of the wrong hands. In its first 13 months of operation (November 30, 1998-December 31, 1999), the NICS conducted over 10 million background checks and blocked an estimated 179,000 prohibited gun sales. Through NICS, the FBI and its state and local law enforcement partners perform instant searches of over 35 million records to help prevent the sale of guns to prohibited buyers. To date, the Brady Law has stopped more than 500,000 felons, fugitives, and other prohibited persons from purchasing firearms. Among the key findings of today's report:

Most checks completed within seconds. During the first year of NICS, 72 percent of checks were completed within 30 seconds, and 95 percent were completed within two hours. In the remaining cases where completing a check takes longer, there is a strong law enforcement rationale for additional time: an individual whose check takes more than 24 hours to complete is almost 20 times more likely than the average gun buyer to be a felon or other prohibited purchaser.

Vast majority of sales blocked to felons and other criminals. Of sales denied by the FBI, 71 percent were to felons, 15 percent to individuals with domestic violence misdemeanors or under restraining orders, and 4 percent to persons with histories of drug abuse.

NICS checks help law enforcement apprehend fugitives. The report shows that NICS prevented more than 2,400 wanted persons from buying guns, and that FBI employees identified those persons to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies -- leading to the apprehension of dangerous fugitives from justice.

Cutting time for law enforcement checks means more criminals get guns. The report shows that if the FBI were given only 24 hours to complete all background checks, instead of up to three business days as under current law, nearly 34,000 prohibited purchasers -- over 38 percent of FBI denials -- would have received guns since the NICS first took effect.

DOUBLING FUNDS TO MAKE BRADY CHECKS FASTER AND MORE EFFECTIVE. The President today will also announce that his FY 2001 budget provides $70 million to give law enforcement more tools to increase the speed and accuracy of Brady Background checks, and keep guns out of the hands of even more prohibited persons. The President's initiative doubles funding for the National Criminal History Records Improvement Program (NCHIP), created under the Brady Law to improve the accessibility of records used for Brady background checks. NCHIP helps states to update, computerize and complete their records on felons, fugitives, domestic abusers, mentally ill prohibited persons and others restricted from purchasing firearms. To date, over $200 million has been provided to states through NCHIP.

PUSHING FOR BIPARTISAN CONGRESSIONAL ACTION ON COMMON SENSE GUN LEGISLATION. For over eight months, the Republican leadership has refused to allow the House and Senate conferees to meet and have a substantive debate on the common sense gun measures in the pending juvenile crime bill. Joined by a bipartisan group of House members, the President will urge Congress to pass Representative Lofgren's motion today calling on conferees to meet in the next two weeks. The President also will call again on Congress to send him strong gun safety legislation that would: require background checks at gun shows; mandate the sale of child safety locks with handguns; bar the importation of high capacity ammunition clips; and hold adults accountable if they allow children easy access to loaded guns that are later used to kill or maim. As part of his comprehensive strategy to reduce gun violence, the President also will urge support for his $280 million National Gun Enforcement Initiative to hire 500 new Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) agents and inspectors; fund over 1,000 new federal, state and local gun prosecutors; expand ATF's crime gun tracing and ballistics testing program; and help communities replicate successful gun violence reduction programs like Richmond's Project Exile and Boston's Operation Ceasefire.