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Memorandum on Enforcing the Youth Handgun Safety Act

June 11, 1997

Memorandum for the Secretary of the Treasury

Subject: Enforcing the Youth Handgun Safety Act

A major problem in our Nation today is the terrifying ease with which our young people gain illegal or unattended access to guns. Firearms are now responsible for 12 percent of fatalities among all American children and teenagers. Criminal use of firearms by young people is a national tragedy. Between 1984 and 1994, the number of juvenile offenders committing homicides by firearms nearly quadrupled. Moreover, firearms are the fourth leading cause of accidental deaths among children ages 5 to 14 and are now the primary method by which young people commit suicide. A recent study supported by the Department of Justice found that slightly more than half of all privately owned firearms were stored unlocked and approximately one-third of all handguns were stored both loaded and unlocked. We must do all we can to prevent both illegal and unintended access to guns by juveniles.

To address this issue, my Administration has consistently called for toughening our laws to help reduce youth gun violence. Specifically, we have fought for and gained passage of: (1) the Brady Law, to allow local law enforcement to conduct background checks before handguns are sold; (2) the Assault Weapons ban, to keep deadly assault weapons off the streets; (3) the Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994, to establish a policy of "zero tolerance" for guns in our schools; and (4) the Youth Handgun Safety Act, Subtitle B of the 1994 Crime Bill, to prohibit, in most circumstances, the transfer to or possession of a handgun by a juvenile.

More recently, we proposed comprehensive juvenile crime legislation that, among other things, would continue to crack down on youth gun violence by increasing penalties for transferring a firearm to a juvenile, prohibiting violent juveniles from owning firearms as adults, and requiring Federal firearms licensees (FFLs) to provide a child safety lock with every gun sold. I hope the Congress will enact these important measures as soon as possible.

Until the Congress acts, however, there is more we can do to keep handguns out of the hands of our Nation's youth. Existing law already bans the transfer of handguns to minors and juvenile possession of handguns, except in specified circumstances, and grants the Department of the Treasury authority to prescribe rules and regulations to implement this provision. I direct you to take the authorized steps necessary to enforce the provisions of the Youth Handgun Safety Act—and specifically, consistent with your statutory authority, to promptly publish in the Federal Register proposed regulations requiring that signs be posted on the premises of FFLs and that written notification be issued with each handgun sold to non-licensees warning that:

(1) Federal law prohibits, except in certain limited circumstances, anyone under the age of 18 from knowingly possessing a handgun, or any adult from transferring a handgun to such a minor;

(2) violation of the prohibition of transferring a handgun to a minor is, under certain circumstances, punishable by up to 10 years in prison;

(3) handguns are a leading contributor to juvenile violence and fatalities; and

(4) safely storing and locking handguns away from children can help ensure compliance with Federal law.

I also direct you to provide me with a written status report within 60 days on how you will carry out this directive.

Your implementation of this directive will help inform gun purchasers about their responsibility under Federal law to keep handguns from our children. It will also ensure that gun purchasers are warned about the frequency with which handguns kill or injure our kids.


William J. Clinton, Memorandum on Enforcing the Youth Handgun Safety Act Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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