THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release May 14, 1999
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
ON SENATE VOTE ON GUN CONTROL
The South Portico
8:45 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. It is now clear that the tragedy at Littleton has helped to create a broad national consensus that we must act together to protect our children from violence, including taking efforts to keep guns away from children and away from criminals. The question is whether Congress will write that national consensus into law, or block it. Thus far, the Senate has not fully lived up to its responsibility.
I am very pleased that on Wednesday a bipartisan majority in the Senate passed two important measures I proposed two weeks ago. First they agreed to ban the import of high-capacity ammunition clips that are used to evade the 1994 ban on assault weapons. Second, they agreed to ban juvenile possession of semi-automatic assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, weapons used -- designed only for mayhem. There's no good reason for a child to own an AK-47 or a 15-round ammo clip.
I applaud the Senate for taking these two steps. However, on Wednesday, a narrow majority squandered an important opportunity to close the gun show loophole through which tens of thousands of guns are sold each year without background checks. Yesterday I called on the Senate to reconsider that vote. It makes no sense to let criminals continue to use legitimate gun shows as a convenience store for their weapons.
Today the Senate will vote again on a measure purporting to address this issue. However, the new Senate Republican bill is still riddled with high-caliber loopholes. It won't stop criminals from buying guns at gun shows. At the same time, it will open up a new pawn shop loophole that lets convicted felons get guns at a local pawn shop. That's actually worse than current law.
I simply can't believe the Senate will make the same mistake twice. So once again, I ask them to reject this phony proposal and to pass real legislation that requires the background checks necessary to prevent criminals from buying guns at gun shows which they cannot buy at gun stores.
This should be a moment for national unity. I was so pleased today to receive a letter from the major gun manufacturers reiterating their support for our efforts to pass real, enforceable, mandatory background checks at gun shows. They recognize that law-abiding citizens don't need a gun show loophole -- only criminals do.
For six years, we have made strong, steady progress against crime by elevating results over ideology. Today we have a chance to put aside partisanship, political divisions, and draw special interest power that has dominated our politics on this issue for too long. For the sake of our children, I hope the Senate changes its mind and does the right thing.
END 8:50 A.M. EDT