THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
Today's report by the Treasury Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) demonstrates that our Administration is tough on gun traffickers who peddle guns to criminals and young people. Between July 1996 and December 1998, ATF initiated more than 1,500 firearms trafficking investigations, resulting in federal convictions of 812 criminals to a total of 7,420 years in prison -- with an average sentence of nine years.
Gun trafficking puts thousands of guns onto our nation's streets and contributes significantly to our nation's gun violence problem. The investigations documented in today's report involved the diversion of more than 84,000 firearms from the legal to illegal market. The report shows that loopholes in our laws help make gun shows and corrupt gun dealers major channels for gun trafficking. Many of the diverted weapons supplied by traffickers were later used to commit serious crimes, including homicides, robberies and assaults. Each gun put into the hand of a criminal represents the possibility of one more life lost, one more family destroyed.
Through tough enforcement and smart prevention, we have reduced gun crime by 35 percent and increased federal gun prosecutions 16 percent since 1992. There is more we can do to keep guns out of the wrong hands. I will continue to press the Congress to fully fund my $280 million Gun Enforcement Initiative, to add more ATF agents and inspectors to crack down on gun traffickers, corrupt gun dealers and armed gun criminals, as well as hire more federal, state and local gun prosecutors to put more gun criminals behind bars. But Congress must also close the deadly loopholes in our laws that make guns accessible to criminals and children in the first place. Congress should move forward to close the deadly gun show loophole once and for all and pass other stalled common sense gun measures without further delay.