Clinton marks enactment of Brady law, announces new measures
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Clinton marked the seventh anniversary of the Brady gun control law Thursday and announced new measures to strengthen enforcement of the legislation.
President Clinton: "I think that we ought to say in this area that we do not intend to stop working until America is the safest big country in the world."
"We should be gratified and happy in this holiday season that America is safer, but we should be resolved to make it the safest big country in the world," Clinton told a gathering of gun control advocates at Washington's Old Executive Office Building.
Signed into law in 1993, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act established a national system of background checks and waiting periods for those buying handguns from federally licensed firearms dealers.
It was named after James Brady, a former press secretary who was wounded in the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. After the attack, Brady and his wife Sarah started working with the group Handgun Control Inc., which aims to toughen gun laws.
"This administration has been the greatest of friends to us," said Sarah Brady. "We had worked for seven years to get this Brady Bill passed ... it wasn't until Bill Clinton came along that it became an issue in a campaign for the presidency and then, much to our thrill and surprise, it one of the number one priorities for the administration."
The president has frequently hailed the law for blocking thousands of convicted felons from acquiring weapons that might have been used to commit new crimes. He announced Thursday that he will direct the Treasury and Justice Departments to develop a new system designed to notify state and local law enforcement officials after prohibited persons attempt to illegally buy guns in their communities.
"I think that we ought to say in this area that we do not intend to stop working until America is the safest big country in the world," said Clinton.
The president also announced the addition of 12 cities to the administration's Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative, a coordinated effort between the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and state and local authorities to share information on illegal gun trafficking.
Gun control advocates and opponents, including the National Rifle Association, have often cited conflicting studies gauging the impact of the Brady law on violent crimes. The NRA lauded an August report by the American Medical Association that found murder and suicide rates dropped no faster in states that had to toughen their standards to comply with the gun control law.
Earlier this year, the Justice Department released two of its own studies to back its claims that the law was effective in reducing violent crime. One report showed the number of violent crimes committed with guns is 35 percent lower now than in 1992; and another that said background checks prevented more than half-a-million people with criminal records from legally buying a gun between 1994 and 1999.
"It has been so effective. Its passage has stopped felons and fugitives from acquiring guns from licensed dealers," said Attorney General Janet Reno. "... Jim and Sarah Brady have been such an inspiration. I think they should be our inspiration to try harder today and renew our efforts."
Yet another study released Wednesday revealed a 72 percent drop in the number of federally licensed gun dealers in the United States since the enactment of the Brady law. The number of dealers has dropped from 245,628 to 69,591 over the past the six years, according to figures released by the Violence Policy Center.
Most of those who abandoned the business were small, one-person operations selling guns out of homes or garages, said Marty Langley, an analyst with the Washington-based advocacy group. The report was released by a coalition of gun control groups.
Reuters contributed to this report.