WASHINGTON — President Clinton announced initiatives Thursday to help local police keep guns out of the hands of felons, stepping up pressure on the Republican-led Congress to close loopholes in the nation's gun laws before he leaves office in January.
Marking the seventh anniversary of the Brady law, which requires handgun sellers to make background checks and institute waiting periods for buyers, Clinton directed Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers and Atty. Gen. Janet Reno to develop a new system to notify state and local officials of felons in their communities who try to buy guns illegally.
"We should be notifying them immediately, something that we haven't been doing," Clinton conceded at a ceremony flanked by James and Sarah Brady, and Summers and Reno.
"This country is still too dangerous. . . . The crime rate is still too high. The level of violence we put up with is still unacceptable."
Since it was signed into law in November 1993, the Brady act has blocked more than 611,000 felons, fugitives and domestic abusers from buying guns, helping push down the nation's crime rate for eight years in a row to the lowest level in 26 years, the White House said.
Named after former presidential Press Secretary James S. Brady, who was wounded in the 1981 assassination attempt on President Reagan, the law established a national system of background checks and waiting periods for those buying handguns from federally licensed firearms dealers.
Clinton has frequently hailed the Brady law for blocking thousands of convicted felons from acquiring weapons that might have been used to commit new crimes, and used its seventh anniversary to tout his record in office and press returning lawmakers to back his gun enforcement initiatives.
Addressing a crowd of law enforcement officials and gun-control advocates, Clinton urged Congress to free up funding for hundreds of additional federal agents and gun crime prosecutors.
Clinton, who leaves office on Jan. 20, also called on Republicans to mandate a waiting period for gun show purchases, child-safety trigger locks and a ban on importing high-capacity ammunition clips.
"We just can't walk away from all this now. We've got a good head of steam going," Clinton said. "I implore you, do not get discouraged."