[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[November 6, 1998]
[Page 2002]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 2002]]

Memorandum on Preventing Firearms Sales to Prohibited Purchasers
November 6, 1998

Memorandum for the Secretary of the Treasury, the Attorney General

Subject: Preventing Firearms Sales to Prohibited Purchasers

    Since 1993, my Administration has worked hand-in-hand with State and 
local law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve to rid our 
neighborhoods of gangs, guns, and drugs--and by doing so to reduce crime 
and the fear of crime throughout the country. Our strategy is working. 
Through the historic Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 
1994, we have given communities the tools and resources they need to 
help drive down the crime rate to its lowest point in a generation. 
Keeping guns out of the hands of criminals through the Brady Handgun 
Violence Prevention Act's background checks has also been a key part of 
this strategy. Over the past 5 years, Brady background checks have 
helped prevent a quarter of a million handgun sales to felons, 
fugitives, domestic violence abusers, and other prohibited purchasers--
saving countless lives and preventing needless injuries.
    On November 30, 1998, the permanent provisions of the Brady Law will 
take effect, and the Department of Justice will implement the National 
Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The NICS will allow law 
enforcement officials access to a more inclusive set of records than is 
now available and will--for the first time--extend the Brady Law's 
background check requirement to long guns and firearms transfers at 
pawnshops. Under the NICS, the overall number of background checks 
conducted before the purchase of a firearm will increase from an 
estimated 4 million annually to as many as 12 million.
    We can, however, take additional steps to strengthen the Brady Law 
and help keep our streets safe from gun-carrying criminals. Under 
current law, firearms can be--and an untold number are--bought and sold 
entirely without background checks, at the estimated 5,000 private gun 
shows that take place across the country. This loophole makes gun shows 
prime targets for criminals and gun traffickers, and we have good reason 
to believe that firearms sold in this way have been used in serious 
crimes. In addition, the failure to maintain records at gun shows often 
thwarts needed law enforcement efforts to trace firearms. Just days ago, 
Florida voters overwhelmingly passed a ballot initiative designed to 
facilitate background checks at gun shows. It is now time for the 
Federal Government to take appropriate action, on a national basis, to 
close this loophole in the law.
    Therefore, I request that, within 60 days, you recommend to me what 
actions our Administration can take--including proposed legislation--to 
ensure that firearms sales at gun shows are not exempt from Brady 
background checks or other provisions of our Federal gun laws.

                                                      William J. Clinton

Note: This memorandum was made available by the Office of the Press 
Secretary on November 6 but was embargoed for release until 10:06 a.m. 
on November 7.