Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Americas
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
Friday, 28 January, 2000, 11:46 GMT
Clinton aims for gun law

Bill Clinton Bill Clinton: Concerned at gun violence

President Clinton's upbeat State of the Union speech contained a surprise that could prove to be crucial in November's presidential election - gun control legislation.

It is one of the few issues over which the rival parties can claim true differences.

Nobody believes America is safe enough. We must strengthen gun laws.
President Bill Clinton
The majority of Democrats, including Vice President Al Gore - favourite to win the party's nomination - favour tighter gun controls.

Republicans are generally against new gun laws.

Gun control has long been a controversial subject in US politics, with the pro-gun lobby arguing for the constitutional right to bear arms.

Those in favour of stricter legislation point to the catalogue of massacres carried out by disillusioned Americans, some with legal and some with illegal weapons.

The most infamous was the Columbine High School killings, in Denver, Colorado, in which 13 pupils and staff died at the hands of two former students.
America and the Gun
  • A civil liberties issue?
  • Recent legislation
  • What is the NRA?
  • Heston defends laws
  • In his State of the Union address, Mr Clinton said: "Every state in this country already requires hunters and automobile drivers to have a licence.

    "I think they ought to do the same thing for handgun purchasers."

    "Crime in America has dropped for the past seven years - the longest decline on record ...but nobody believes America is safe enough. We must strengthen gun laws and better enforce laws already on the books."

    Background checks

    The announcement was a surprise in that it was one of the few parts of his speech that had not received publicity before he began the 89-minute address.

    But the president had already outlined his ambitions for tighter gun control and the fiercer enforcement of current legislation in the weeks leading up to the State of the Union speech.

    That did not prevent Republicans and the politically powerful National Rifle Association from immediately criticising Mr Clinton.

    House Speaker Dennis Hastert pointed to the problems facing any new gun law, saying he did not think it would be popular in the Republican-dominated Congress.

    And Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the NRA, warned that the measures were a step along the road to the confiscation of private weapons.

    He added: "I don't think Americans are going to buy it. I think NRA membership is going to grow by tens of thousands."

    Clinton's proposals
    Photo licensing system for gun buyers
    Background check on buyers
    Buyers to complete gun safety course
    Under the proposed legislation outlined by Mr Clinton, individuals seeking to buy a handgun would need a licence with a photo on it.

    Licences would only be issued only if an applicant had passed background checks and taken a gun-safety course.

    States would be responsible for the issuing the licences, but could choose not to take part in which case federally approved gun dealers could issue the licences

    Search BBC News Online

    Advanced search options
    Launch console
    Americas Contents

    Country profiles

    See also:
    27 Jan 00 |  Americas
    Clinton: Union stronger than ever
    19 Jan 00 |  Americas
    Clinton plans assault on guns
    11 Aug 99 |  Education
    Schools safer as weapon count falls
    01 Oct 99 |  Americas
    Gunmaker can be sued over shooting

    Internet links:

    The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
    Links to other Americas stories are at the foot of the page.

    E-mail this story to a friend

    Links to more Americas stories