President Clinton Proposes State Licenses for Handgun Purchases

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 27, 2000


In the State of the Union address tonight, President Clinton will propose a system of state-based licenses for handgun purchases. Under the proposal, every purchaser of a handgun must first have a valid state-issued photo license, showing that the buyer has passed a Brady background check and a gun safety training requirement. The President's proposal is part of a comprehensive strategy to keep guns out of the wrong hands and reduce gun violence and accidental shootings. The President also will highlight recent proposals to launch the largest gun enforcement initiative ever and fund the development of "smart gun" technology that can limit a gun's use to its authorized owner. Finally, he will call again on Congress to pass common-sense gun measures.

A STATE-BASED LICENSING SYSTEM FOR HANDGUN PURCHASES. President Clinton tonight will propose a state-based licensing system that would apply to all handgun purchases. Individuals seeking to buy a handgun would be required to obtain a photo license from their state of residence, and to present the license when they purchase a handgun. States would issue a license only if the applicant has: (1) passed a Brady background check; and (2) shown proof of having completed a certified safety course or exam. Under the President's proposal, state participation would be optional, not mandated. For states that choose not to participate, federally-approved gun dealers or a federal entity would be authorized to issue licenses, in an arrangement comparable to the current Brady check system.

KEEPING CRIMINALS, FUGITIVES, AND OTHER PROHIBITED PERSONS FROM BUYING HANDGUNS. Under the President's proposal, each state licensing authority would regularly cross-check criminal history and other available records to identify license holders who, since obtaining a license, have become prohibited from possessing firearms. Prohibited persons (felons, for instance) would then lose their licenses and their firearms.

PREVENTING ACCIDENTAL SHOOTINGS AND UNAUTHORIZED GUN USE. A recent survey has shown that a third of all handgun owners leave their guns loaded and unlocked. Moreover, the accidental gun death rate of children under 15 in the United States is nine times higher than in 25 other industrialized nations combined. Under the President's plan, applicants for a handgun license would be required to complete a certified firearms safety course or exam. States or certified private entities would administer these safety courses.

HIGHLIGHTING OTHER INITIATIVES ON FIREARMS ENFORCEMENT AND SMART GUN TECHNOLOGY. The President tonight will also describe his proposal for the largest gun enforcement initiative in history. This $280 million initiative includes: 1) 500 new ATF agents and inspectors; 2) over 1,000 new federal, state and local gun prosecutors; 3) comprehensive crime gun tracing; 4) funding increases for ballistics testing; and 5) local media campaigns. President Clinton will also call on Congress to support research in "smart gun" technologies that can limit a gun's use to its authorized owner. The President's budget provides $10 million to fund such research. Finally, the President will emphasize again that it is long past time for Congress to pass common-sense gun measures to close the gun show loophole, ban the importation of high-capacity ammunition clips and require child safety locks.

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