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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release April 12, 2000
                           PRESIDENT CLINTON:
                             April 12, 2000

Today in Denver, President Clinton will participate in a citizen rally sponsored by SAFE (Sane Alternatives To The Firearms Epidemic) Colorado in support of a statewide ballot initiative to close the gun show loophole. The President will highlight the leadership that Colorado and other states are now demonstrating on gun safety -- but he will also point out that national legislation is needed to address this national problem. For over nine months, Congress has failed to act on the gun legislation passed by the Senate last May. That legislation includes a measure requiring background checks for all sales at gun shows, and it served as the model for the Colorado ballot initiative. The President today will again challenge Congress to put the interests of American families above those of the gun lobby and to pass common-sense gun legislation before departing for recess at the end of this week.

THE GUN SHOW LOOPHOLE: PROVIDING CRIMINALS WITH EASY ACCESS TO FIREARMS. Every year, an estimated 5 million people attend over 4,400 gun shows in convention centers, school gyms, and on fairgrounds across our nation. While most people who buy and sell guns at gun shows are law-abiding citizens, a dangerous trend is emerging: criminals, juveniles, and other restricted persons are exploiting a loophole under current law that allows unlicensed individuals to sell guns at gun shows without conducting background checks or keeping the records necessary to help law enforcement trace a gun used in a crime. Since unlicensed individuals account for up to 50 percent of all sellers at gun shows, this loophole has made gun shows a prime location for illegal activities. In response to a presidential directive, the Departments of Treasury and Justice released a study last year documenting 314 gun show investigations linked to over 54,000 crime guns; 46 percent of the 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.

COLORADO CITIZENS: TAKING ACTION TO CLOSE THE DEADLY GUN SHOW LOOPHOLE. Citizens working with SAFE Colorado filed the state ballot initiative to close the gun show loophole in March after the Colorado State Legislature failed to pass gun show legislation supported by Governor Bill Owens. SAFE Colorado is a bipartisan organization that lobbies in support of reasonable gun laws. The gun show ballot initiative is modeled on the Clinton Administration?s gun show measure that passed the Senate last May, requiring background checks and record-keeping for all firearms sales at gun shows and providing law enforcement up to three business days to complete background checks. In order to get the initiative onto the ballot this November, SAFE Colorado must collect at least 62,000 signatures in support by August. The President today will remind the people of Colorado of their power to make their voices heard, and he will urge them to stand up to the gun lobby and its allies. A recent survey shows that the gun show ballot initiative has the support of 83 percent of Colorado voters.

CALLING ON CONGRESS TO CLOSE THE GUN SHOW LOOPHOLE NATIONWIDE BEFORE RECESS. The President's participation at today?s rally comes just one day after he joined Governor Parris Glendening for the signing of a new comprehensive gun safety law in Maryland requiring built-in child safety locks on all handguns. The President will note that action on the state level is making a powerful difference. At the same time, he will also underscore the importance of pursuing a strong national framework for our gun laws. He will point out that a patchwork of inconsistent state gun laws enables criminals to exploit loopholes in states with weaker laws and commit crimes in states with stronger laws. He will also point out that Congress can pass lifesaving new gun laws far more quickly than all 50 states. Yet for over nine months, Congress has failed to act on common-sense gun safety legislation that would require background checks at gun shows; mandate child safety locks with every handgun sold; ban the importation of high capacity ammunition clips; and bar the most violent juvenile offenders from possessing firearms when they become adults.

Just yesterday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Hyde and Representative Conyers sent a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Hatch urging him to schedule a meeting to work out their differences on pending gun provisions and to make progress on the legislation. The President today will once again urge congressional leaders to take action on this legislation before they recess this week.