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President Clinton: Convening Congessional Leaders and Making the Case for Common Sense Gun Legislation

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The Briefing Room

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 7, 2000


President Clinton today will announce the release of a new Justice Department report, Kids and Guns, showing the devastating impact that gun violence has on American children. The report shows that guns are the key variable in the recent rise and fall of juvenile homicide. The rise in murders of juveniles and by juveniles from the mid-1980ís to their peak in 1993 was entirely firearms-related -- as was their subsequent decline since 1993. Non-gun juvenile homicide remained constant during that period. The report also makes clear that even with recent declines, too many American youth are killed by gunfire: the gun homicide rate of children under 15 is sixteen times higher in the U.S. than in 25 other industrialized nations combined.

In the wake of last week's tragic shootings, the President today will also convene a meeting with Congressional leaders to break the logjam on pending common sense gun legislation. The President will ask the leaders to put the safety of American families first, and pass measures to close the gun show loophole, require child safety locks for handguns, and ban the importation of large capacity ammunition clips. The President also will call on the leaders to pass his plan to punish adults who recklessly allow children to have access to deadly weapons.

RELEASING NEW REPORT ON KIDS AND GUNS. Todayís report, prepared by the Justice Departmentís Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), contains encouraging news on recent declines in gun-related juvenile deaths, but reinforces the need to do more to keep guns out of the hands of children. Key findings include:

  • The sharp decline in homicides by juveniles between 1994 and 1997 was attributable entirely to a decline in homicides with firearms. This followed an increase in homicides by juveniles from the mid-1980ís to the 1993 peak year -- fueled entirely by firearms.

  • Guns are the weapon of choice for juvenile homicide offenders. Between 1980 and 1997, 70 percent of juvenile homicide offender victims were killed with a firearm. Most victims of juvenile homicide offenders were male (83 percent). Of all victims killed by juveniles, 55 percent were acquaintances, 31 percent were strangers and 14 percent were family members.

  • The number of juveniles murdered with a gun increased 65 percent between 1987 and 1993 while other types of homicide remained constant. The subsequent decrease in juveniles murdered also was all gun-related. Between 1980-1997, nearly 38,000 juveniles were murdered. In 1980, fewer than half (41 percent) of the juveniles murdered were killed with a firearm; this proportion peaked at 61 percent in 1993 and fell to 56 percent in 1997.

  • Teen homicides more likely to involve a gun than adult homicides. In 1997, 85 percent of 15-17 year-old homicide victims were killed with a gun, versus 60 percent of victims 35-44.

The findings of todayís report underscore the importance of this Administrationís efforts to reduce gun violence, including the Brady Law, the 1994 assault weapons ban, the Youth Handgun Safety Act banning juvenile handgun possession, and the Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative to crack down on illegal gun traffickers who supply guns to youth. The report also reinforces the need for additional gun safety measures, like those proposed by the President, to prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands.

PUSHING CONGRESS TO PASS COMMON SENSE GUN LEGISLATION. For eight months, the Congress has failed to complete action on common sense gun measures in the pending juvenile crime bill. Today the President will call on Congressional leaders to move quickly to enact into law the Senate-passed gun safety provisions to help keep guns out of the hands of children and criminals. The Senate gun provisions include:

  • Closing the gun show loophole. The Senate bill contained provisions to close this dangerous loophole in the law that allows criminals to buy guns at gun shows on a cash and carry basis with no questions asked. It is estimated that up to half of sellers at the more than 4,000 gun shows held across the country are not subject to the same laws as licensed gun dealers -- and are not required to conduct background checks or keep records to help law enforcement trace guns later used in crimes. To close this dangerous loophole, the President will insist on background checks and recordkeeping for all sales at gun shows.

  • Requiring child safety locks for handguns. An estimated one-third of all privately-owned handguns are left loaded and unlocked. Child safety locks can reduce the unauthorized use of handguns by a child at play or a teen looking to commit a crime. The Senate passed an amendment to require a child safety lock with every new handgun.

  • Banning the importation of all large capacity ammunition magazines. While the 1994 assault weapons law banned the future domestic manufacture and importation of large capacity ammunition feeding devices that hold more than 10 rounds, those manufactured before the lawís enactment were grandfathered. Since it is difficult to determine when clips manufactured by foreign companies were made, it has become relatively easy for foreign gun manufacturers to circumvent the ban. The Senate bill would close this loophole by banning the importation of all large capacity magazines -- regardless of when they were manufactured.

  • Extending the Brady Law to violent juveniles. Although violent youths convicted in adult courts are barred from owning firearms as adults, the same is not true for youths found guilty of serious violent crimes in juvenile court. The Senate bill would permanently ban all violent juveniles from buying guns.

HOLDING PARENTS RESPONSIBLE FOR CHILD ACCESS TO GUNS. The President will also call on the Congressional leaders to take a step beyond the Senate-passed provisions and pass his Child Access Prevention (CAP) proposal, which would hold adults accountable if they allow children easy access to loaded guns. Sixteen states have already adopted CAP laws. According to a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, CAP laws help reduce fatal unintentional shootings by an average of 23 percent. The Presidentís proposed legislation would impose felony penalties on adults who knowingly or recklessly allow a child to have unlawful access to an unlocked gun that is later used to cause death or serious injury. Such adults could be imprisoned for up to three years, fined up to $250,000, or both.

LEADING AN EFFORT TO DEVELOP SMART GUN TECHNOLOGY. The President has also proposed a $10 million FY 2001 budget initiative to fund the research, development and replication of "smart gun" technologies. These state-of-the-art safety innovations would limit a gunís use to its proper adult owner -- and could prevent accidental shooting deaths, deter gun theft, and stop criminals from seizing and using the guns of police officers against them.

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