"That's why today, I'm directing Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and Attorney General [Janet] Reno to use every available tool to increase the prosecution of gun criminals and shut down illegal gun markets," Mr. Clinton said.
The president said gun crimes are down, although in 1997, 14,000 people were murdered by guns.
"While the numbers are declining, any child caught in the crossfire of a gang shootout, or a police officer struck down by a criminal's bullet, or a store clerk murdered in a robbery is one tragedy too many," Clinton said, with Reno and other law enforcement officials at his side.
The president said he wants a comprehensive national strategy to investigate and prosecute criminals using guns, but he blasted congressional Republicans for proposing a budget he said would cutback funds for community policing.
President Clinton held his first full-fledged White House news conference in almost a year on Friday. The session came five weeks after the president's Senate impeachment trial ended in acquittal.
With NATO air strikes looming, the president used the session to publicly spell out the need for risky American military action in Kosovo if Serbian leaders are bent on aggression. The allied nations must act, he said, because "hesitation is a license to kill."