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"I think that taking a little time and a little inconvenience to save a lot of lives is a good deal for America."

President Bill Clinton
Wednesday, March 15, 2000

Today, at the White House, President Clinton unveiled the FBI's first annual report on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) created under the Brady Law. The new report shows that in its first year of operation, the NICS stopped 179,000 felons, fugitives, domestic abusers, and other prohibited purchasers from buying guns. The President also urged Congress to pass the motion by Representative Zoe Lofgren calling on juvenile justice conferees to meet in the next two weeks, and to move on gun safety legislation that has been stalled for over eight months.

REPORT SHOWS EFFECTIVENESS OF BACKGROUND CHECKS. Today's report confirms that the NICS is a powerful tool to help law enforcement and federally licensed gun dealers keep guns out of the wrong hands. Through NICS, the FBI and state and local law enforcement perform instant searches of over 35 million records to help prevent the sale of guns to prohibited buyers. In its first 13 months of operation, the NICS conducted over 10 million background checks and blocked an estimated 179,000 prohibited gun sales. To date, the Brady Law has stopped more than half a million felons, fugitives, and other prohibited persons from purchasing firearms. Among the key findings of today's report:

  • Most checks completed within seconds. During the first year of NICS, 72% of checks were completed within 30 seconds, and 95% were completed within two hours. In cases where completing a check takes longer, there is a strong rationale for additional time: an individual whose check takes more than 24 hours to complete is almost 20 times more likely than the average gun buyer to be a felon or other prohibited purchaser.

  • Most blocked sales were to felons and other criminals. Of sales denied by the FBI, 71% were to felons, 15% to persons with domestic violence misdemeanors or under restraining orders, and 4% to persons with histories of drug abuse.

  • NICS checks help law enforcement apprehend fugitives. NICS prevented more than 2,400 wanted persons from buying guns, and FBI employees identified those persons to law enforcement agencies, leading to the apprehension of dangerous fugitives from justice.

  • Reducing time for background checks means more criminals get guns. If the FBI were given only 24 hours to complete all background checks, instead of up to three business days as under current law, nearly 34,000 prohibited purchasers - over 38% of FBI denials - would have received guns since the NICS first took effect.

MAKING BRADY CHECKS FASTER AND MORE EFFECTIVE. The President's FY 2001 budget provides $70 million to give law enforcement more tools to increase the speed and accuracy of Brady background checks, which will keep guns out of the hands of even more prohibited persons. The President's initiative doubles funding for the National Criminal History Records Improvement Program which helps states to update, computerize and complete their records on felons, fugitives, domestic abusers, and others restricted from purchasing firearms.

PUSHING FOR ACTION ON COMMON-SENSE GUN LEGISLATION. For over eight months, the Republican leadership has refused to allow the House and Senate conferees to meet and have a substantive debate on the gun measures in the pending juvenile crime bill. Joined by a bipartisan group of House members, the President urged Congress to pass a motion by Representative Lofgren calling on conferees to meet in the next two weeks. The President again urged Congress to send him strong gun-safety legislation that would require background checks at gun shows, mandate the sale of child safety locks with handguns, and bar the importation of high-capacity ammunition clips.

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