THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release|| ||April 6, 1998|
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON THE ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN
The Rose Garden
10:55 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Secretary Rubin.Thank you for your efforts. Madam Attorney General, thank you. Mr.Vice President, thank you. And to the members of the law enforcementcommunity and Secretary Kelly, Mr. McGaw, Attorney General Miller,Congressman Engel, to representatives of hand gun control and thevictims of violent crime, and to all of you who have come here today,I thank you very much.
As the Vice President and the Attorney General and theSecretary of Treasury have said, five years ago we made a commitmentas an administration to recover our nation's streets from crime andviolence, to provide security for our families and our children. Itrequired a new determination by communities and by government. Ittook a new philosophy of law enforcement, based not on tough talk,which was always in ample supply, but on tough action and smartaction, a philosophy based simply on what works -- communitypolicing, strong anti-gang efforts, targeted deterrence, smarter,tougher penalties; a comprehensive strategy that includes all theseelements and puts community policing at its core.
We're well on our way to putting 100,000 new policeofficers on the street, ahead of schedule. And as the Vice Presidentjust told us, crime rates are dropping all across America to a25-year low. Violent crime is down. Property crime is down. Andmurder is down dramatically. From the Crime Bill to the Brady Bill,from the assault weapons ban to the Violence Against Women Act, ourstrategy is showing results. And Americans should take both prideand comfort in this progress.
But statistics tell only part of the story. The realmeasure of our progress is whether responsibility and respect for thelaw are on the rise. The real test of our resolve is whether parentscan unlock their front doors with confidence and let their childrenplay in the front yard without fear. And the fact remains that thereare still far too many children in harm's way, too many familiesbehind locked doors, too many guns in the hands of too manycriminals.
No statistics can measure the pain or the braveresilience of the families shattered by gun violence. Some of themare here with us today, and I would like to acknowledge them --people like Dan Gross, Tawanna Matthews, Brian Miller, ByrlPhillips-Taylor. Byrl's 17-year-old son was killed with an AK 47.Tragedies like theirs are a brutal reminder of the task still beforeus. They are a challenge and a call to action that we as a nationcannot ignore, and I thank these people for being willing to continuethe fight through their pain. Thank you very much, all of you.(Applause.)
If we are going to move forward in building a safer,stronger America, all of us -- police and parents, communities andpublic officials -- must work together. We must remain vigilant.
Last November, I asked the Treasury Department toconduct the thorough review Secretary Rubin has just presented. Thatis why our administration has concluded that the import of assaultweapons that use large-capacity military magazines should be banned.As everyone knows, you don't need an Uzi to go deer hunting. Youdon't need an AK 47 to go skeet shooting. These are militaryweapons, weapons of war. They were never meant for a day in thecountry, and they are certainly not meant for a night on the streets.Today we are working to make sure they stay off our streets.
Two successive administrations have acted on thisprinciple. In 1989, President Bush banned the import of 43semi-automatic assault rifles. In 1994, this administration bannedthe domestic manufacture of certain assault weapons. And inCongress, Senator Dianne Feinstein and the late Congressman WalterCapps led the fight against foreign gun manufacturers who evade thelaw. As long as those manufacturers can make minor cosmeticmodifications to weapons of war, our work is not done. And we mustact swiftly and strongly.
That is what Secretary Rubin's announcement amounts totoday. We are doing our best to say, you can read the fine print inour law and our regulations all you want, and you can keep makingyour minor changes, but we're going to do our best to keep our peoplealive and stop you from making a dollar in the wrong way.(Applause.)
It is our sworn duty to uphold the law, but it is alsoour moral obligation -- our obligation to the children and familiesof law-abiding citizens, an obligation to stop the terrible scourgeof gun violence. As parents, we teach our children every day todistinguish right from wrong. As a nation, we must also rememberwhere to draw the line.
Today, we draw it clearly and indelibly. If we do this,if we follow the recommendations set forth in this report, we chartthe right course for America, toward a future more free of fear and anew century brimming with confidence and great promise.
Again, to all of you who played any role in thisimportant day, I thank you on behalf of the people and the childrenand the future of the United States. Thank you very much.(Applause.)