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Clinton Announces New Tools to Crack Down on Internet Gun Criminals and Reduce Gun Violence

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President Clinton's radio address to The Nation: New tools to crack down on Internet gun criminals and reduce gun violence (9/23/00)

In his weekly radio address to the nation, President Clinton will announce new steps to help strengthen enforcement of federal firearms laws and the gun industry's role in reducing gun violence. First, the President will launch the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) "eZ Check" website, an online system designed to prevent the use of fraudulent firearms licenses to illegally acquire guns by mail, the Internet, or other means. Second, the President will announce new actions to require federally-licensed gun manufacturers, distributors and dealers ("licensees") to verify the validity of federal firearms licenses before transporting guns, and report individuals who use invalid licenses to the ATF. Finally, the President will call on Congress to provide even more tools for law enforcement to crack down on gun criminals by fully funding his $280 million National Gun Enforcement Initiative and passing stalled common sense gun safety legislation that can help keep guns out of the wrong hands.

LAUNCHING THE NEW "eZ CHECK" SYSTEM. ATF's Federal Firearms License (FFL) eZ Check system will provide a quick and easy way to verify the validity of a federal firearms license online. By logging onto the eZ Check system at www.atf.treas.gov, a gun seller may submit a federal firearms license identification number and instantly receive information on the status and authenticity of the license. It is important for licensees to ensure they are selling to other legitimate license-holders because they are not required to run background checks before shipping guns to them. ATF's eZ Check will help licensees from unknowingly selling to criminals and juveniles who attempt to buy guns through the Internet, mail or classified ads using fraudulent licenses.

Growing concerns about gun sales over the Internet. With approximately 80 online firearms auction sites and 4,000 firearm sales-related sites, including classified ads, personal ads and retail/wholesale firearms dealers, the potential for illegal firearms trafficking through fake licenses is greater than ever before. The eZ Check system will not only help members of the gun industry ensure that they are not selling their products to dangerous criminals, but will also help the ATF to better enforce our nation's gun laws.

Fraudulent licenses used by traffickers and juveniles to get guns. Recent ATF investigations reveal how juveniles and illegal gun traffickers easily obtained firearms by using fraudulent licenses:

  • Last May, two juveniles in Montclair, New Jersey were arrested after using a fraudulent license to order four firearms over the Internet from a gun dealer in Texas. They were caught when a UPS driver reported them to the police after observing that the guns were being delivered to a residence, instead of a gun store, and that no adults were present to sign for the package. The students later admitted to making four additional false licenses. Agents and investigators recovered all four firearms and the juveniles pled guilty in state court.
  • An ATF investigation led to the federal prosecution of a former gun dealer for creating fraudulent licenses, one of which was used to obtain and illegally traffic over 1,100 guns in the San Francisco Bay Area. To date, nearly 50 of the trafficked guns have been recovered from crime scenes and criminals after being used in crimes, including murder and bank robbery. The dealer is currently serving a 72-month sentence in federal prison.

TAKING TOUGH EXECUTIVE ACTIONS TO KEEP GUNS OUT OF THE WRONG HANDS. In addition to launching the eZ Check system, the President will announce new actions to: 1) require licensed gun manufacturers, dealers and wholesalers to verify the validity of licenses before transporting firearms; and 2) notify ATF when they are presented with an invalid license. The Treasury Department will propose a rule requiring licensees to comply with the additional verification by accessing the eZ Check system or calling ATF's Licensing Center's toll-free number (1-877-560-2435). Under current law, licensees are required to obtain copies of licenses from purchasers before making a shipment, but are not required to ensure that these licenses are valid or to report individuals who attempt to obtain guns using invalid licenses to law enforcement. These new measures will not only ensure the highest form of accountability from the gun industry, but will also aid in ATF's efforts to fully enforce federal firearms laws and to crack down on gun criminals and illegal traffickers.

CALLING ON CONGRESS TO FULLY FUND THE LARGEST NATIONAL GUN ENFORCEMENT INITIATIVE IN HISTORY. To significantly bolster enforcement of our gun laws, the President will urge Congress to fully fund his National Gun Enforcement Initiative. This unprecedented initiative would provide $280 million to fund over 1,000 federal, state and local gun prosecutors; hire 500 new ATF firearms agents and inspectors; expand crime gun tracing and ballistics testing; expand the Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative from 38 to 50 cities nationwide; provide $10 million for local anti-gun violence media campaigns; and provide $10 million for smart gun research. So far, Congress has provided no funding for key components of this initiative, including $150 million to hire 1,000 state and local gun prosecutors and smart gun research funding. These measures are critical to the Administration's efforts to take dangerous gun criminals off our streets and the President will call on Congress to make them a priority.

URGING PASSAGE OF STALLED COMMON-SENSE GUN LEGISLATION. In addition to providing more resources to strengthen gun enforcement, the President will urge the Congress to pass common-sense gun safety legislation to help keep guns out of the wrong hands in the first place. This legislation, which passed in the Senate last year with a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Gore, would: help keep guns out of the wrong hands by closing the gun show loophole; mandate the sale of child safety locks with every handgun sold; ban the importation of high capacity ammunition clips; and bar the most violent juvenile offenders from possessing firearms as adults.

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