Clinton announces increased oversight of some gun dealers
By John King/CNN
February 4, 2000
Web posted at: 1:32 p.m. EST (1832 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bill Clinton on Friday announced a new
executive action to increase oversight of what the administration views as
"rogue gun dealers."
Clinton cited a report by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms that
traced 57 percent of the guns used in crime to 1 percent of the nation's gun
"In response ... we are beginning the most aggressive effort ever
undertaken to ensure responsible behavior by gun dealers," Clinton said about
the move, which was immediately dismissed by the National Rifle Association as
"a plan to drive gun dealers out of business through arbitrary regulation."
The ATF will subject those dealers to more intense scrutiny, he said.
Clinton called on Congress to increase the number of unannounced
inspections the ATF can make of gun dealers from one to three. He also called for the hiring of more ATF agents and inspectors "to crack down on these illegal gun traffickers and gun criminals."
Clinton reiterated the call he made during last week's State of the Union
address to require new handgun buyers to have photo licenses issued by states
showing they have passed the Brady background check and a safety course.
"This is something new. This is an intensified focus and allocation of
enforcement resources in the most effective way," said Treasury Secretary
Lawrence Summers. The Treasury Department oversees the ATF.
"It's a lot of nothing," said Bill Powers, spokesman for the National
Rifle Association. "They already have the authority to do what they say they
want to do."
Summers said the approach in this plan could eliminate the deep divide
among Americans on the issue of gun control.
"This is not an approach that is in any way punitive with respect to guns
in general, but it is an approach of ensuring that our resources are targeted
as effectively as possible at reducing the incidence of gun crime."
The call to increase the number of inspections allowed by ATF from one
to three per year is a "red herring," Powers said. "If they think there's some
suspicious activity going on, they can investigate 365 days a year."
Requiring gun owners to have a photo identification card will not reduce
crime, Powers predicted. "I don't think there's a criminal in America who is
going to stand in Bill Clinton's or in Al Gore's photo ID line. What's next, a
federal photo ID card to go to church? This country is not about licensing
people's ability to exercise a civil right."
Clinton's announcement could exacerbate the political tension over pending
gun legislation in Congress. Forcing debate and votes on those proposals is a
major Democratic election-year priority.
Clinton has increasingly turned to executive orders and other
administrative actions in an effort to push administration priorities that are
anathema to the Republican congressional majority.