19 November 1997: Add Memorandum for the Secretary of the Treasury

Delivered-By-The-Graces-Of: White House Electronic Publications
To: Public-Distribution@pub.pub.whitehouse.gov
Date: Wed, 19 Nov 1997 17:08 -0500
From: The White House <Publications-Admin@pub.pub.whitehouse.gov>
Reply-To: Publications@pub.pub.whitehouse.gov
Subject: 1997-11-15 Importation of Modified Semiautomatic Assault Type Rifles
Keywords: Crime, Directive, Executive-Act, Explication, Foreign, Government,
          International-Security, Legislation, Middle-East-North-Africa,
Document-ID: PDI://OMA.EOP.GOV.US/1997/11/19/14.TEXT.1
URL: http://www.pub.whitehouse.gov/show-document?pdi://oma.eop.gov.us/1997/11/19/14.text

                             THE WHITE HOUSE

                      Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                                  November 15, 1997

November 14, 1997


SUBJECT:  Importation of Modified Semiautomatic Assault-Type Rifles

    The Gun Control Act of 1968 restricts the importation of firearms 
unless they are determined to be particularly suitable for or readily
adaptable to sporting purposes.  In 1989, the Department of the
Treasury (the Department) conducted a review of existing criteria for
applying the statutory test based on changing patterns of gun use.  As
a result of that review, 43 assault-type rifles were specifically
banned from importation.  However, manufacturers have modified many of
those weapons banned in 1989 to remove certain military features
without changing their essential operational mechanism.  Examples of
such weapons are the Galil and the Uzi.

    In recent weeks Members of Congress have strongly urged that it is 
again necessary to review the manner in which the Department is 
applying the sporting purposes test, in order to ensure that the 
agency's practice is consistent with the statute and current patterns 
of gun use.  A letter signed by 30 Senators strongly urged that 
modified assault-type weapons are not properly importable under the 
statute and that I should use my authority to suspend temporarily their 
importation while the Department conducts an intensive, expedited 
review.  A recent letter from Senator Dianne Feinstein emphasized again 
that weapons of this type are designed not for sporting purposes but 
for the commission of crime.  In addition, 34 Members of the House of 
Representatives signed a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin 
Netanyahu requesting that he intervene to stop all sales of Galils and 
Uzis into the United States.  These concerns have caused the Government 
of Israel to announce a temporary moratorium on the exportation of 
Galils and Uzis so that the United States can review the importability 
of these weapons under the Gun Control Act.

    The number of weapons at issue underscores the potential threat to 
the public health and safety that necessitates immediate action.  
Firearms importers have obtained permits to import nearly 600,000 
modified assault-type rifles.  In addition, there are pending before 
the Department applications to import more than 1 million additional 
such weapons.  The number of rifles covered by outstanding permits is
comparable to that which existed in 1989 when the Bush Administration
temporarily suspended import permits for assault-type rifles.  The
number of weapons for which permits for importation are being sought
through pending applications is approximately 10 times greater than in
1989.  The number of such firearms for which import applications have
been filed has skyrocketed from 10,000 on October 9, 1997, to more than
1 million today.

    My Administration is committed to enforcing the statutory 
restrictions on importation of firearms that do not meet the sporting 
purposes test.  It is necessary that we ensure that the statute is 
being correctly applied and that the current use of these modified 
weapons is consistent with the statute's criteria for importability.  
This review should be conducted at once on an expedited basis.  The 
review is directed to weapons such as the Uzi and Galil that failed to 
meet the sporting purposes test in 1989, but were later found 
importable when certain military features were removed.  The results of 
this review should be applied to all pending and future applications.

    The existence of outstanding permits for nearly 600,000 modified
assault-type rifles threatens to defeat the purpose of the expedited
review unless, as in 1989, the Department temporarily suspends such
permits.  Importers typically obtain authorization to import firearms
in far greater numbers than are actually imported into the United
States.  However, gun importers could effectively negate the impact of
any Department determination by simply importing weapons to the maximum
amount allowed by their permits.  The public health and safety require
that the only firearms allowed into the United States are those that
meet the criteria of the statute.

    Accordingly, as we discussed, you will:

    1) Conduct an immediate expedited review not to exceed 120 days in
length to determine whether modified semiautomatic assault-type rifles
are properly importable under the statutory sporting purposes test.  The
results of this review will govern action on pending and future
applications for import permits, which shall not be acted upon until the
completion of this review.

    2) Suspend outstanding permits for importation of modified
semiautomatic assault-type rifles for the duration of the 120-day review
period.  The temporary suspension does not constitute a permanent
revocation of any license.  Permits will be revoked only if and to the
extent that you determine that a particular weapon does not satisfy the
statutory test for importation, and only after an affected importer has
an opportunity to make its case to the Department.


# # #

15 November 1997
Source: http://www1.whitehouse.gov/WH/html/briefroom-plain.html

Office of the Press Secretary


The Roosevelt Room

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Today I want to talk about the progress we're making in our fight against crime and the steps we're taking to build on that progress. All over our country, crime is dropping. Responsibility and respect for the law are on the rise. But the true measure of our progress is whether our children can play in their front yards, whether they can walk to school in safety, whether our parents can unlock their front doors, whether our grandparents can walk down the streets with confidence, free from the fear of violence.

To give our families that security, we've put in place a comprehensive plan to bring the crime rate down -- with 100,000 new community police officers, tougher punishment, stronger anti-gang prevention, the Brady Bill. And we've led an unprecedented effort to join the forces of national, state and local law enforcement to fight crime in every community in America.

In the three years since I signed the Crime Bill into law, we know our strategy is having a real, measurable impact. Crime has dropped now for a record five years in a row. Today, we have even more dramatic proof of our progress -- the Annual National Crime Victimization Survey. It says that in 1996, crime rates fell to their lowest recorded level in nearly 25 years. Property crime is down. Violent crime is down.

Since 1993, murder has dropped by 22 percent, 10 percent in 1996 alone. This remarkable drop in the crime rate is no accident. The hard work of people from Washington to every community in the country made it happen.

Community policing is at the center of this success. In only three years, we've already funded 65,000 new police officers under the Crime Bill and we're close to meeting our goal of putting 100,000 new police officers on our streets.

Our nation's police officers will tell you that our ongoing effort to ban lethal assault weapons has also been critical to their ability to do a better job. We've banned these guns because you don't need an uzi to go deer hunting, and everyone knows it.

But as effective as the assault weapons ban has been, we know that some foreign gun manufacturers are getting around the ban by making minor modifications to their weapons that amount to nothing more than cosmetic surgery. Well, we didn't fight has hard as we have -- to pass the assault weapons in the first place -- only to let a few gun manufacturers sidestep our laws and undermine our progress.

Assault weapons in the hands of civilians exist for no reason but to inspire fear and wreak deadly havoc on our streets. They don't belong on our streets or in our schoolyards, and they shouldn't be aimed at our children. That's why we banned them three years ago and why we're taking action today.

Effective immediately, the Secretary of the Treasury is suspending the importation of all modified assault weapons for 120 days while we study whether they can be permanently blocked from our borders and banned from our streets. We must continue to do everything we can to crack down on illegal firearms and the organized criminals, terrorists and drug lords who seek them. Yesterday, President Zedillo of Mexico and I signed an unprecedented international convention to help fight illegal gun trafficking in our own hemisphere and to strengthen law enforcement's ability to combat this deadly trade.

Working together over the last five years, we've proven that we can drive down the crime rate. Now we have to press on, confident that we can take our streets back from crime, take assault weapons and illegal firearms out of the hands of criminals, enact a tough but smart juvenile justice bill, and eventually, give our families and our children the real security they deserve.

Thanks for listening.

The New York Times, November 15, 1997

President Halts Imports of Assault Rifles


LAS VEGAS -- Facing a huge surge in requests by gun dealers to bring modified assault weapons into the United States, President Clinton on Friday temporarily halted such imports, blocking permits already issued to dealers for 600,000 guns and freezing applications to import a million more.

Clinton's action suspends imports for 90 days, while the Treasury Department considers whether it can ban the guns permanently. The Treasury Department has the authority under the 1968 Gun Control Act to ban imports of such firearms if they are not used for sporting purposes.

At fund-raising reception for the Democratic Party here Friday night, Clinton said, "I am not going to let people overseas turn our streets into battle zones where gangs are armed liked they were guerrilla warriors halfway around the world, if I can stop it."

Imports of semiautomatic assault rifles have been banned since 1989. But Clinton accused "all these foreign gun manufacturers" of "trying to modify their assault weapons to get them in under the sport weapon definition."

In his weekly radio address, which Clinton taped Friday for delivery on Saturday morning, he ridiculed the notion that these guns fit that definition.

"You don't need an Uzi to go deer hunting, and everyone knows it," he said. "Assault weapons in the hands of civilians exist for no reason but to inspire fear and wreak deadly havoc on our streets." Clinton taped his radio address in Washington before leaving for a weekend of fund-raising here and in California.

If the Treasury ultimately bans some or all of the guns covered by the president's order Friday, any permits to import those weapons that have already been issued would be voided. Although permits to import 600,000 guns have been granted so far this year, White House officials said, only about 20,000 of the guns have entered the country.

The Clinton administration had been considering a new import ban for weeks. It may have been the expectation that the president would try to block imports that led to the spike in applications for permits. In his directive sent Friday to Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin to suspend imports, Clinton noted that "the number of such firearms for which import applications have been filed has skyrocketed from 10,000 on Oct. 9, 1997, to more than one million today."

To the consternation of the White House and of lawmakers who have been calling for an import ban, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which administers the gun law, continued issuing permits even after Clinton began exploring a suspension. In one week in late October, it granted permits to import 150,000 guns. But the fact that dealers received permits to import the guns does not mean that they would necessarily to do.

If the Treasury Department moves to ban the modified weapons permanently, gun dealers will have an opportunity to appeal the decision about particular types of guns to the department, officials said.

A legal challenge to any permanent ban is also certain.

Officials cautioned that the Treasury department might not seek to ban all of the weapons. "It would be presumptuous to say that this would become an outright ban," said Joe Lockhart, a White House spokesman. But it is clearly the president's hope that it will. Clinton said in his radio address that the suspension on the weapons would last "while we study whether they can be permanently blocked from borders and banned from our streets."

Clinton has sought to make gun control a hallmark of his presidency, highlighting it again Friday night in a summary of his accomplishments at the reception in Las Vegas, a $125-a-person event for Democratic women. Clinton also appeared at a $5,000-a-plate dinner. Together the two events were expected to raise about $300,000.

In his radio address, Clinton argued that his efforts to restrict assault weapons had contributed to the overall drop in crime nationally, a trend confirmed by the Annual National Crime Victimization Survey, to be released Saturday. In his radio address, Clinton announced that crime as measured by the survey had dropped to its lowest level in almost 25 years.

Source: http://www1.whitehouse.gov/WH/html/briefroom-plain.html

                  The White House Briefing Room


November 14, 1997


12:32 P.M. EST

                           THE WHITE HOUSE

                    Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release                        November 14, 1997


                   Organization of American States

12:32 P.M. EST

             THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, Mr. Gurria,
Secretary General Gaviria, President Zedillo, distinguished permanent
representatives of the Organization of American States, to all my
fellow Americans who are here, and especially to two members of our
Congress, Senator Dodd and Congressman Gilman.

             Today our 34 democracies are speaking with one voice,
acting with one conviction, leading toward one goal: to stem the flow
of illegal guns, ammunitions, and explosives in our hemisphere.
Three years ago at the United Nations, the United States called on
others to work with us to shut down the gray markets that outfit
terrorists, drug traffickers, and criminals with guns.

             Here at home we have prohibited arms dealers from acting
as middlemen for illicit sales overseas, strengthened residency
requirements for gun purchasers, banned foreign visitors from buying
guns here in the United States, tightened export licenses to make
sure that legally exported weapons are not diverted to illegal uses.
But in an era where our borders are all more open to the flow of
legitimate commerce, problems like trafficking in weapons and
explosives simply cannot be solved by one nation alone.

             Last May in Mexico, President Zedillo and I pledged to
work together for a hemisphere-wide agreement to curb the illegal
arms trade.  I thank President Zedillo for Mexico's leadership.  Mr.
Secretary General, I thank you and the OAS member states for
concluding this agreement in record time.  We understand the
magnitude of the problem.  In the last year alone, thousands of
handguns and rifles, hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition
destined for illegal export have been seized in our nations.

             The illegal export of firearms is indeed not just a
hemispheric but a worldwide problem, and demands an international
response.  Last year, the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco
and Firearms received approximately 30,000 requests just from OAS
member states to trace weapons used in crimes.  Gun trafficking is an
issue of national security for all of us, and a matter of
neighborhood security for the Americas.

             This Convention will neither discourage nor diminish the
lawful sale, ownership, or use of guns; but it will help us to fight
the unlawful trade in guns that contributes to the violence
associated here in America with drugs and gangs.

             If we want also here in America to see the powerful
trend of democracy and free markets and peace in our hemisphere
continue, we must also help our neighbors to fight the illegal trade
in guns so that the foundations of democracies will not be eroded by
violent crime and corruption.

             Now, this Convention mandates four key steps to achieve
our common goals.  First, it requires countries to establish and
maintain a strong system of export, import, and international transit
licenses for arms, ammunitions, and explosives to make sure that
weapons won't move without explicit permission from all the countries

             Second, other nations will join us in putting markings
on firearms, not only when they're made but also when they're
imported.  If guns are diverted from legal purposes, we will then be
better able to trace their path and find out exactly when and how
they got into the wrong hands.

             Third, nations will adopt laws that criminalize illicit
arms production and sales as we have already done, so that those who
seek to profit from illegal trade in guns know they will pay a stiff
penalty in jail.

             Fourth, we will step up every level of information
sharing from common routes used by arms traffickers to ways that
smugglers are concealing their guns and tips on how to detect them.
If we work together, we can put the black market in weapons out of

             Let me say in a larger sense to all of you that this
agreement underscores the new spirit of the Americas and the new
dynamism of this organization.  The mood of the negotiations was not
one of recrimination, but of cooperation on behalf of a common goal.
We need more of that.  Our hemisphere is setting a new standard for
the world in taking on global challenges -- last year, with our
pathbreaking convention against corruption, today with this arms
trafficking agreement.  Together, we're showing the way of the 21st
century world: democratic partners working together to improve the
prosperity and security of all their people.

             I'm especially pleased to be joined today, and to join
you today, with President Zedillo.  The United States and Mexico are
working hard to forge a true partnership founded on mutual respect, a
partnership as broad as our border is long.  We see it taking shape
in the creation of NAFTA, in our common commitment to the Firearms
Convention, in our alliance against drug-trafficking, in our work
with other American nations to increase multilateral cooperation and
strengthen our hemispheric institutions to combat the scourge of

             Over the last two days, the United States and Mexico
have reached an agreement on extradition that will allow cross-border
criminals to be tried in both countries while the evidence is still
fresh.  We've pledged to build a new Rio Grande bridge to help link
our people together.  We've taken an important step to fully
demarcate our common border, and agreed to promote environmental
commercial cooperation.  We've agreed also to work together to combat
climate change, because developed and developing countries must
reduce greenhouse gas emissions, together, that are warming the

             Witnessing the signing of this important convention, I
am especially proud of the renewed vitality of the OAS and the
renewed deep cooperation between the United States and Mexico.  It
can make a difference for our entire community of nations -- to build
a better, safer future for all our people.

             And now I'd like to ask you to join me in welcoming our
good friend, President Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico.  (Applause.)

             PRESIDENT ZEDILLO:  Your Excellency, Mr. William
Clinton, President of the United States of America; Your Excellency,
Mr. Cesar Gaviria, Secretary General of the Organization of American
States; distinguished representatives of the member states of the
Organization; ladies and gentlemen.

             It's a great satisfaction for me to be here in the home
of our continental friendship, the headquarters of the Organization
of American States.  With deep conviction in the pan-American ideal,
Mexico participated in the conference held in Panama in 1826, the
first step toward what was eventually to become this Organization.

             And since the founding of the OAS almost 50 years ago,
Mexico has resolutely backed the Organization's vocation for peace
and respect, harmony and cooperation.  Under the leadership of its
Secretary General, Cesar Gaviria, the OAS is promoting those tasks
that call for continental collaboration.

             Two years ago when we met at these headquarters,
President Clinton spoke of his desire for the OAS to serve as a forum
for the encouragement of democracy, the defense of human rights and
the promotion of free trade.  Mexico will continue to share that

             A problem that's been affecting security of many of our
countries, as well as the tranquility of our families and
communities, has been illicit trafficking in firearms, explosives,
and other destructive materials.  This commerce in violence fuels
serious offenses such as:  drug-trafficking that wreaks destruction
and aspires to impose its code of death and corruption; organized
crime that abducts, commits violent assaults, and undermines public
security; and terrorism that seeks to block the path to democracy and
to enshrine dogmatism and intolerance.

             Consequently, on behalf of Mexico, almost a year ago I
submitted an initiative to the 10th Summit of the Rio Group,
proposing that an agreement be reached to establish effective
controls on illicit trafficking in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Thanks to the interests of the heads of state of the Rio Group, a
draft convention was prepared and submitted to the OAS with a view to
negotiating a hemispheric agreement.  The final text of the
Inter-American Convention was drafted within our organization with
the assistance of a distinguished group of specialists, and today
it's being opened for signing by the representatives of the member

             Mexico recognizes and appreciates the sensitivity that
President Clinton has shown in regard to this serious problem, as
well as the firm determination with which the United States
government has supported the negotiations leading to this convention.
With equal recognition, we deeply appreciate the receptivity and the
unwavering support and cooperation with which each and every member
state has endorsed this initiative of Mexico's.

             This agreement is, in fact, as President Clinton has
just reminded us, is a result of the most rapidly concluded
negotiations in the history of the OAS.  For Mexico, it's a reason of
pride that today we're signing this convention here.  This is the
first international legal instrument of its sort.  It's a matter of
pride because this convention is based on a framework of respect for
the principles of legal equality of the states, respect for the
sovereignty and the territorial jurisdiction of each nation, and the
cooperation for international peace and security.

             Mexico places great value on this step, but we Mexicans
are aware that it's only one of many steps that must be taken in
order to step up the overall battle against crimes such as drug
trafficking.  The most promising approach to confront drug
trafficking and organized crime is a comprehensive strategy designed
with respect for the sovereignty of each country and capable of
taking full advantage of the multilateral mechanisms available to the
international community.

             Mexico has, therefore, promoted a special session of the
General Assembly of the United Nations, dedicated to examining ways
of combatting drug production, trafficking, and consumption more

responsibly and effectively.  In a spirit of respect and brotherhood,
Mexico calls on the member states of the OAS to participate at the
highest level in that session, which will take place in June of 1998,
and to contribute to its efforts by presenting their respective

             I am particularly grateful that the government of
President Clinton has decided to subscribe to this Inter-American
Convention at the very ceremony in which it is being opened for
signing.  The step that all the representatives of the American
states have taken here today shows that the hemisphere of the
Americas is shouldering its share of the responsibility in building a
future of peace and security for our children and a better future for
all.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

             END                          12:47 P.M. EST

The White House Briefing Room November 14, 1997 FACT SHEET Message Creation Date was at 14-NOV-1997 12:23:00 THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary ______________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release November 14, 1997 FACT SHEET OAS Convention Against Illicit Firearms Trafficking The United States and its partners in the Organization of American States today signed the Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, the first international agreement designed to prevent, combat, and eradicate illegal trafficking in firearms, ammunition, and explosives. The Convention will make the citizens of the hemisphere safer by helping to shut down the gray and black arms markets that fuel the violence associated with drug trafficking, terrorism, and international organized crime. The initiative responds to President Clinton,s call to the international community three years ago at the United Nations, and is part of the Administration,s broader efforts -- with our partners in the Summit of the Eight and through independent steps -- to address this serious transnational danger. Initially proposed by Mexico and negotiated in the last seven months, the Convention is an outstanding example of the contribution that the OAS is making to the security of our hemisphere. While strengthening our ability to eradicate illicit arms trafficking, this agreement protects the legal trade in firearms, and does not discourage or diminish the lawful ownership and use of firearms. Key Provisions of the Convention Export, Import, and Transit Licenses. To help ensure that arms are transferred to legitimate users, parties to the Convention are required to establish or maintain an effective licensing or authorization system for the export, import, and transit of firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials. States may not permit firearms to be exported or transited across their borders without proper licensing from the receiving and in-transit countries. Marking of Firearms. To improve the ability to track down the sources of illegal firearms, parties to the Convention are obligated to require, at the time of manufacture, the marking of firearms with the name, place of manufacture, and serial number. Similar markings are required for imported firearms. U.S. manufacturers and importers currently follow this practice. Criminalization of Illicit Arms Production and Sales. Nations that have not already done so are required to adopt laws and regulations criminalizing the illicit manufacture of and trafficking in firearms, ammunition, explosives, and related materials. Information Exchange. Consistent with their national laws, parties will share information on legislative practices and other national measures to combat illicit trafficking; techniques used to combat money laundering related to illicit transfers; routes customarily used by criminal organizations engaged in illicit trafficking; and the means of concealment used and ways of detecting them. Law Enforcement and Regulatory Cooperation. Parties agree to cooperate with one another in the effort to eradicate arms trafficking through the establishment of a single point of contact that will act as the formal liaison among states. Technical Assistance and Training. States agree to cooperate to better ensure adequate training in such areas as identification and tracing; intelligence gathering; and detection methods and search protocols at borders. The Administration,s Program Against Illicit Trafficking U.S. support for the OAS Convention is part of the Administration,s broader effort to address the problem of illicit international firearms trafficking. Monitoring Exports. At the request of the President, the State and Treasury Departments have undertaken an intensified country-by-country review of applications for licenses to export firearms, ammunition, and explosives from the United States to ensure that exported weapons are not diverted to illicit purposes. OAS Model Regulations. The United States has worked with its OAS partners to produce &Model Regulations8 governing the transfer of firearms. The &Model Regulations to Control the Movement of Firearms, Ammunition, and Firearms Parts and Components,8 drafted by a group of experts of the OAS Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), were agreed in Lima earlier this month. The President has directed the State Department to begin to implement these regulations immediately and to encourage regulatory and licensing authorities in other countries to do the same. Arms Brokering Legislation. The President has signed legislation amending the Arms Export Control Act to give the State Department greater authority to monitor and regulate the activities of arms brokers. The amendment closes a loophole in US law that had permitted brokers with US ties to act as middlemen for arms transactions conducted abroad, without being subject to US laws and regulations. Vigilance at Our Borders. To ensure the continued integrity of our borders, the Administration has made prevention of illegal arms trafficking a priority. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and the U.S. Customs service have recently intensified their interdiction and investigative efforts at borders. The Attorney General has directed U.S. attorneys along the southwest border to begin a dedicated effort to prosecute traffickers, large and small, caught attempting to smuggle firearms across the border. Residency Requirements for Gun Purchasers. To contribute to the safety of citizens on both sides of our southern border, the President announced earlier this year that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms will tighten up the residency requirements for aliens purchasing firearms from dealers in the United States. Regulations have been issued requiring aliens to prove they have been residents for at least 90 days in the state where they are trying to buy a gun. International Cooperation. The United States is working with its partners in the Group of Eight and through the UN Crime Commission to expand cooperation on combating illicit arms trafficking. # # #