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Clinton Seeks Tougher Brady Law

By Lawrence L. Knutson
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, June 15, 1999; 2:11 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Declaring gun regulation is ``too important to be decided by strong-arm lobbying tactics,'' President Clinton today renewed his call to the Republican Congress to toughen the Brady gun law, which he said has proved itself one of the nation's must effective anti-crime measures.

Clinton said the law with its system of background checks has blocked more than 400,000 illegal gun sales, two-thirds of which involved either convicted felons or people with a current felony indictment.

``The heart and soul of America is on the line,'' Clinton said as he urged ordinary Americans to tell House members to follow the lead of the Senate and pass strengthened gun legislation.

In a White House Rose Garden ceremony with congressional supporters and the families of many victims of gun violence, Clinton said the National Rifle Association was ``wrong, wrong, wrong'' in arguing against the Brady bill six years ago and is equally wrong now.

``Now in the aftermath of the terrible shootings at Littleton our nation is even more galvanized to act against violent crime,'' and to keep guns out of the hands of juveniles and criminals, Clinton said.

``Once again the gun lobby is resisting with all its might; once again we are battling not only for the safety of our families but the soundness of our democracy,'' he said.

He called on Congress to resist ``procedural and tactical smokescreens to confuse everyone and confuse the issue.''

``I want us to honor the sacrifices of the people in Littleton, Colo., and not to turn our backs on them,'' the president said.

Clinton called on Congress to strengthen the Brady law by requiring background checks of people seeking to buy guns at gun shows and flea markets, by raising the national age of handgun ownership from 18 to 21 and by passing other measures he said would help keep guns out of the hands of criminals and children.

The president made public a new Justice Department report showing that in the first five years of the application of the law, a period in which a five-day waiting period was required, some 312,000 handgun purchase applications were rejected under state or federal law, 66.3 percent of them for felony convictions or indictments.

During the first five years, state and local authorities were allowed up to five days to check backgrounds of handgun buyers before the guns were sold, unless a state already had its own instant-check system. If a check took less than five days, no additional waiting was required.

The Justice Department report said that in the first six months under a new instant-check background search system, an additional 90,000 illegal gun sales were blocked. The new system gives law enforcement officials access to a more extensive set of records and applies to all firearms, not just handguns.

More than 4.1 million background checks have been conducted by the FBI and the states under the new instant-check system, the report said.

Clinton's appeal to House Republicans followed by a day a similar call from Vice President Al Gore. Gore told the U.S. Conference of Mayors in New Orleans that new government studies show that one in four gun murders are committed by people 18, 19 or 20.

Copyright 1999 The Associated Press