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Clinton defends background checks for gun buyers


NRA says it's 'vindicated'

June 27, 1997
Web posted at: 5:15 p.m. EDT (2115 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Clinton defended the Brady Law Friday and vowed to continue his tough-on-crime platform, saying criminal background checks on would-be gun owners have made America safer.

The president's comments came after the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government cannot require states to do the background checks.

"I am going to do everything I can to make sure we continue to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them," said Clinton, who seemed disheartened by the decision.

"Those criminal background checks make good sense. They save lives," he said.

President Clinton
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Newt Gingrich
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Sarah Brady
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Wayne LaPierre
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Since the Brady bill passed in 1993, about 200,000 felons, fugitives and mentally unstable persons have been stopped from purchasing hand guns, Clinton said.

"I know these state and local law enforcement officials who asked us to pass the law will continue to do the background checks."

— President Clinton

The Supreme Court, in delivering its decision, sided with the National Rifle Association and other critics who said Congress exceeded its power when it passed the Brady bill into law.

But the court said there was nothing to stop authorities from voluntarily conducting a background check.

Swift reaction

Reaction to the ruling was swift.

Wayne LaPierre, the CEO and executive vice president of the NRA, said, "We feel vindicated by this decision... We were opposed to it because we thought it was unconstitutional to begin with."

He added that the NRA supports a federal background check of criminals who try to purchase weapons. But he said most criminals buy guns on the black market, not at gun stores.

Sarah Brady, the wife of former White House press secretary James Brady, who the bill is named after, said she was "somewhat disappointed" the background check provision was struck down but was "very delighted that the rest of the law remains intact."

"This ruling was on the 10th Amendment, and clearly only one narrow part of the bill was actually ruled unconstitutional," she said.

Police Chief Michael Chitwood of Portland, Maine, expressed disappointment but pledged to conduct his own background checks.

"This is a blow to the law enforcement community," he said. "However, I along with hundreds of other police chiefs across the country will continue to do the background checks."

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