THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release|| ||August 6, 1998|
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON THE BRADY LAW
The Rose Garden
11:06 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Sarah and Jim. I think everyAmerican should be grateful that the power of your spirit was greatenough to overcome the pain of your injury and disappointment, sothat you could dedicate all these years to this great cause.
Thank you, Mr. Vice President, for being, as you saidwhen you got such a laugh, a critical part of every good thing thathappens,and even before we met, an early sponsor of the Brady Bill.Coming from where we come from, the Vice President and I were notalways popular with all of our constituents because we were alwaysfor the Brady Bill, but just about every one of them knows now thatit was the right thing to do.
I thank the Attorney General and the Secretary of theTreasury for all they have done. I thank all the law enforcementofficials, the leaders of the Association of Chiefs of Police, theSheriffs Association, the Brotherhood of Police Officers who arehere. And, Officer Flynn, I thought you were just downright terrificup here today. And I was very proud of you. Thank you. (Applause.)
I want to thank all the members of Congress who arehere. I think the Vice President attempted to introduce everyone. Ithink we inadvertently didn't mention Congressman Roemer fromIndiana. We thank him for being there.
And there are a number of you who have played largeroles over the years. I hesitate to single out anyone, but I want tothank Senator Durbin, and I want to say a special word ofappreciation to Congressman Shumer. Thank you, sir, and all the restof you for what you have done. (Applause.)
As the Vice President said, more than five years ago wecommitted ourselves to a comprehensive strategy to lower the crimerate and to make America a safer place to live: community policing;anti-gang initiatives; targeted deterrence; tougher penalties; butmost important of all, because of what law enforcement officers andcommunity leaders told us, smarter, more comprehensive prevention.
The strategy from the Brady Bill to the Crime Bill, fromthe Assault Weapons Ban to the Violence Against Women Act, has begunto show remarkable results thanks to police officers and citizens allacross America. We're ahead of schedule and under budget in meetingour goal of putting 100,000 police on the street. All across Americaviolent crime, property crime, murder are down. Crime rates overallare at 25-year low. Americans should take pride in that but shouldresolve to do better. No serious person believes that this countryis as safe as it ought to be.
The Brady Law, in particular, shows the progress we canmake when we take responsibility for making our community safe.Since the law took effect, gun trafficking and gun-related crime areon the wane. And, as has been said, according to a recent JusticeDepartment report, background checks have put a stop to nearly aquarter of a million handgun purchases since the law took effect, 62percent of them based on felony convictions or indictment.
Now, that sounds like a big number, and Officer Flynnmentioned those gripping, personal, tragic cases. But let me breakit down for you: that number is 118 felons a day, every day, sincethe Brady Law took effect -- 118 a day going home empty-handedinstead of well-armed. How many people are alive today because ofthat law? We will never know. But no one doubts the number is very,very large indeed.
As we near the fifth anniversary of the law andcelebrate its progress, we have to continue to fight against crimeand violence. We cannot retreat. Yet, as has already been noted,that is precisely what the gun lobby and its allies on Capitol Hillhave asked us to do -- to retreat from a law that is keeping guns outof the hands of criminals, retreat from the national interests,surrender our fight for safety to the special interests.
Now, before the Brady Law even goes fully into effect,the gun lobby and its friends in Congress are trying to destroy it.They claim to support the National Insta-Check System, but would denythe FBI the funds necessary to make the system work. They claim tosupport background checks, but would have the FBI immediately destroyrecords vital to the process. In their official literature, the gunlobby is proudly calling this measure, and I quote, "an anti-Bradyamendment."
Let me be clear, I will oppose any legislation thatwould gut the Brady Law and put guns back into the hands of felonsand fugitives when we can prevent it. (Applause.) Here again, thisis a place we ought to put progress ahead of partisanship, publicsafety ahead of politics.
Years of experience now show that this law works, as theVice President so clearly argued. Now we have to make it moreeffective, not less effective. I have asked Congress to extend Bradybackground checks to violent juveniles who should not be able to buya gun on their 21st birthday. Congress should also enact the Bradywaiting period as a permanent requirement before it expires inNovember. (Applause.)
Too many crimes are committed within hours of a handgunpurchase. The waiting period gives tempers time to cool. It givespotential criminals the time to consider the consequences. It giveslocal law enforcement officials the time to check all relevantrecords, even those not computerized, and stop every last prohibitedperson who can be found from walking home with a gun in hand andviolence in mind.
This is good law enforcement; it's smart; it works.That's why both the International Brotherhood of Police Officers andthe International Association of Chiefs of Police are todaysupporting permanent extension of the Brady waiting period. The realmeasure of our progress, of course, is more than a decline in crime;it's a rise in responsibility and respect for the law and the feelingof security that is so intangible yet so profoundly important to theessence of American citizenship.
For those of us in public life, it is our obligation tostrengthen that feeling of security, especially the laws that protectour families, save lives, and draw the line between right and wrong,and against violence. At heart, this is what the Brady Law hasaccomplished, and this is the vision to which we must all remain trueif we are to build a safer and stronger America for the 21st century.
There has been another development today that because ofthis opportunity, I feel I have to comment on. One of the reasonsthat the crime rate has gone down, as everyone knows, is that theeconomy has gone up, and the unemployment rate is at a 28-year low.
I think it is important to keep the economy strong and for the longrun, and to honor our obligations across the generations. That's whyI have said that I'm proud we're going to have the first balancedbudget and surplus in 29 years, but I don't want us to run right outand spend it before we take care of the crisis in Social Securitythat is looming when the baby boomers retire. (Applause.)
Therefore, I was disappointed today when the Speakerproposed to drain $700 million from the surplus before we have evenrealized the surplus and before we take even the first steps to saveSocial Security. As I said in my State of the Union Address, weshould reserve every penny of the surplus until we save SocialSecurity for the 21st century.
You know, we waited 29 years for this -- to get out ofthe red ink. It looks to me like we could at least wait a year andenjoy it and take care of future generations' challenges before werun right out and spend this money. This is about our budget, thehealth of our economy, keeping us strong and safer, about ourfundamental values as a country. We worked a long time to get backon the path of responsibility, and we shouldn't abandon it beforewe've even achieved our real objectives.
Now, I think it would be wrong for us to end todaywithout hearing from the person whose courage made this day possible,our friend, Jim Brady. (Applause.)
MR. BRADY: Thank you, Mr. President. As a former WhiteHouse Press Secretary, I always want the last word. And the word fortoday is "success." The Brady Law has done a great job of stoppingguns from being sold to felons and fugitives. The Brady Law works.
So my advice to Congress is simple: Don't mess withsuccess. Keep the waiting period in place. And thank you, Mr.President, for your continued leadership in the fight against gunviolence. (Applause.)