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Special Event

President Clinton Announces Crackdown on Gun Dealers

Aired February 4, 2000 - 9:28 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: We go live to the White House and President Clinton.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... flow from the illegal firearms market to criminals, and to talk about the unprecedented new actions that we're taking to block that flow.

Keeping guns out of the wrong hands has been a priority for seven years for us, and we have made some real progress with the Brady Law, the ban on assault weapons, cracking down on illegal gun dealing to young people, with increased federal prosecutions of gun crimes. And beginning with a directive I issued in 1993, we have nearly quadrupled the number of traces that the ATF performs on guns used in crimes.

With the help of these and other efforts, we've cut gun crime by 35 percent since 1993, and homicide is at its lowest rate in over 30 years.

But, as I said last week in the State of the Union, no one believes America is safe enough, and it's time we set the proper goal to make our nation the safest big country in the world. We can do that by building on our progress and applying lessons learned.

Some crucial lessons are captured in this ground- breaking new report by ATF, the most comprehensive look at the firearm industry ever done by the national government. Thanks to its increased tracing of crime guns, the ATF has been able to uncover an astonishing fact: Only 1 percent of the gun dealers in America sell over 57 percent of the guns used in crime.

These findings confirm a pattern that Senator Chuck Schumer has talked about for several months, and I want to thank him for his leadership on this issue.

In response to the findings in this report, I'm pleased to announce today that we're beginning the most aggressive effort ever undertaken to ensure responsible behavior by gun dealers. Dealers whose guns most frequently wind up in criminals' hands will now be subject to intense scrutiny by ATF. All dealers will be required to do a more thorough job of reporting gun thefts.

In a moment, Secretary Summers, in a briefing, will explain to you how these and other actions will work in more detail.

The tragic shooting last year in Columbine High School showed us what happens when guns fall into the wrong hands. The actions I've announced today will enable the federal government to do a better job in fulfilling our responsibility to reduce gun violence.

Others have responsibilities too. The gun industry must do its part. As I've said before, there are responsible citizens in that industry, manufacturers and dealers. They can help us to keep the guns out of the wrong hands.

And Congress must fulfill its responsibility as well. As its first order of business this year, I've asked Congress to pass common sense gun safety legislation to close the gun show loophole, the require safety locks with all new handguns, to ban the importation of large-capacity ammunition and clips.

And again, I repeat my call from the State of the Union that all new handgun buyers be required to have photo licenses from their states showing they passed the Brady background check and a gun safety course.

Congress has a responsibility, too, to provide law enforcement agencies -- including the ATF -- with the authority and resources they need to do their jobs.

Under current law, ATF can only inspect a gun dealer, no matter how flagrant the problems are. And as I said, 1 percent of the dealers provide 57 percent of the guns used in crime. Under current law, ATF is only permitted to inspect such dealerships once a year. Today I ask Congress -- as I did last year -- to remove this restriction, allow ATF to make up to three unannounced visits per year.

I also ask Congress to fund my plan to hire 1,000 more federal and local gun prosecutors, more ATF agents and inspectors to crack down on these illegal gun traffickers and violent gun criminals.

And finally, I ask Congress to provide law enforcement with the tools to trace every gun and every bullet used in every crime in America.

LIN: President Clinton announcing a new executive order giving the ATF more authority over gun shop owners, an executive order which bypasses a Republican majority-held Congress.

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