Bill Clinton on Gun Control

President of the U.S., 1993-2001; Former Democratic Governor (AR)


Background checks have prevented 179,000 illegal gun sales

Since 1994, the Brady Law has helped to prevent a total of more than 536,000 felons, fugitives, domestic abusers, and other prohibited purchasers from buying guns. In Nov. 1998, the Instant Background Check System took effect, allowing access to a fuller set of records that law enforcement officials can use to conduct checks of all prospective gun purchases-not just for handguns. As of March 2000, 10 million background checks on gun purchasers [have] stopped an estimated 179,000 illegal gun sales.
Source: WhiteHouse.gov web site , Aug 1, 2000

People should register guns like they register cars

Twenty years ago, I asked Richard Nixon what he thought of gun control. His on-the-record reply: "Guns are an abomination." Free from fear of gun owners' retaliation at the polls, he favored making handguns illegal and requiring licenses for hunting rifles.

Last week, Bill Clinton was asked why he was supporting only niminy-piminy restrictions on guns, our current President, also with the freedom of a lame duck, replied testily: "Should people have to register guns like they register their cars? Do I think that? Of course I do." He didn't propose it only because Congress was opposed.

Source: N.Y.Times OpEd by William Safire, "An Appeal for Repeal" , Jun 10, 1999

Five-day waiting period and instant background check

Named after James Brady, the former White House press secretary shot in the head and permanently paralyzed in the 1981 assassination attempt of President Ronald Reagan, the bill proposed a 5-day waiting period on all handgun sales in the US. The wait would not only serve as a "cooling off" period for a new gun owner in the event there was a sinister reason for the purchase, but, most importantly, would require all would-be handgun purchasers to submit to a criminal background check. The legislation called for $200 million a year to computerize criminal background information so an instant-check system could be created within the next 5 years.

Convinced that the Brady Bill could be an effective way to reduce gun-related crimes, Pres. Clinton had publicly supported the legislation even before his election in 1992. The Clinton Administration & other handgun control advocates finally overcame the NRA's well-organized opposition to the Brady Bill and it passed Congress in Dec. 1993.

Source: State of the Union, by T.Blood & B.Henderson, p. 16 , Aug 1, 1996

Assault Weapons Ban resulted in 18% decline in use in crimes

Perhaps the hardest-fought provision of the Pres. Clinton's 1st-term crime agenda was the Assault Weapons Ban. Like the Brady Bill, it was vehemently opposed by the NRA, which expressed concern for those Americans who enjoy hunting. Proponents of the ban claimed that assault weapons are designed and manufactured only to "hunt people."

The ban prohibits the sale, transfer, or importation of 19 military-style assault weapons. Banned weapons include the AK-47, Uzi submachine gun, revolving-cylinder shotguns such as the "Street Sweeper" and the "Striker 12", as well as the deadly TEC-9 assault pistol, capable of firing more than 50 times before reloading. At the same time, the bill specifically protects more than 650 legitimate sporting weapons.

Since its passage, the Assault Weapons Ban has resulted in an 18% decline in assault weapons crimes in 1995. Moreover, the number of assault weapons recovered by police officers has declined nearly 48.6%.

Source: State of the Union, by T.Blood & B.Henderson, p. 19-21 , Aug 1, 1996

Support Brady Bill, oppose assault weapons

The Brady Bill [is] a commonsense law that establishes a five-day waiting period and a background check that has already kept handguns out of the hands of some 60,000 felons, fugitives, and other criminals.

We also have a law that bans the sale of 19 assault weapons-guns made expressly for killing people. What’s more, not a single hunter in America has lost a weapon or missed a season as a result of either the assault weapons ban or the Brady Bill.

Source: Between Hope and History, by Bill Clinton, p. 81 , Jan 1, 1996

National system to check criminal history for gun purchase

Q: When our Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, they did not mean for the right to bear arms to apply to 12-year-olds.

CLINTON: I support the right to keep and bear arms. I live in a State where over half the adults have hunting or fishing licenses or both. But I believe we have to have some way of checking the criminal history, the mental health history, and the age of people who are buying them. Therefore, I support the Brady bill, which would impose a national waiting period, unless and until a State did what only Virginia has done now, which is to automate its records. Once you automate your records, then you don't have to have a waiting period, but at least you can check.

PEROT: The Brady bill is a timid step in the right direction, but it won't fix it. So why pass a law that won't fix it?

BUSH: I am not for national registration of firearms. Some of the States that have the toughest antigun laws have the highest levels of crime.

Source: The Second Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential Debate , Oct 15, 1992

Prevent unauthorized firearm use with "smart gun" technology.

Clinton adopted the manifesto, "A New Agenda for the New Decade":

Make America the “Safest Big Country” in the World
After climbing relentlessly for three decades, crime rates started to fall in the 1990s. Nonetheless, the public remains deeply concerned about the prevalence of gun violence, especially among juveniles, and Americans still avoid public spaces like downtown retail areas, parks, and even sports facilities.

We need to keep policing “smart” and community-friendly, prohibiting unjust and counterproductive tactics such as racial profiling; focus on preventing as well as punishing crime; pay attention to what happens to inmates and their families after sentencing; use mandatory testing and treatment to break the cycle of drugs and crime; and enforce and strengthen laws against unsafe or illegal guns. Moreover, we need a renewed commitment to equal justice for all, and we must reject a false choice between justice and safety.

Technology can help in many areas: giving police more information on criminal suspects so they do not rely on slipshod, random stop-and-search methods; allowing lower-cost supervision of people on probation or parole; and making it possible to disable and/or trace guns used by unauthorized persons.

Above all, we need to remember that public safety is the ultimate goal of crime policy. Until Americans feel safe enough to walk their neighborhood streets, enjoy public spaces, and send their children to school without fear of violence, we have not achieved public safety.

Source: The Hyde Park Declaration 00-DLC11 on Aug 1, 2000

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Other past presidents on Gun Control: Bill Clinton on other issues:
Former Presidents:
Barack Obama(D,2009-2017)
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton(D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson(D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Dwight Eisenhower(R,1953-1961)
Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

Past Vice Presidents:
V.P.Joseph Biden
V.P.Dick Cheney
V.P.Al Gore
V.P.Dan Quayle
Sen.Bob Dole

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Page last updated: Feb 22, 2022