Clinton to Cops: Politicians ‘Stood Up for You’
WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton is urging police officers to support Democratic and Republican lawmakers who risked the wrath of gun-control foes and voted to ban some assault-style weapons.
In an emotional speech honoring slain police officers, Clinton promoted the crime bill and heaped praise on the 216 House members who voted for the ban on 19 assault-style weapons.
″I hope all of you in law enforcement will go home to the districts of those 216 representatives without regard to their political party and stand up for them because they stood up for you,″ Clinton said. ″Many of them put their political lives on the line in the hopes that you would never have to put your life on the line.″
The proposed ban on 19 types of assault-style weapons passed the House and Senate, but is part of negotiations under way in Congress to resolve differences in competing crime bills.
With the Capitol grounds covered by blue uniforms, Clinton told the friends, family and brethren of 146 officers killed in the line of duty last year that the greatest tribute to fallen police officers would be safer streets.
″We ought to rededicate ourselves to becoming a country worthy of the heroes we come here to honor,″ he said.
″We must determine that we are going to become a less violent, less dangerous, less crime-ridden, more hopeful, more unified society,″ the president said. ″We owe that to the people who we will honor today.″
Later in the day, the Justice Department released statistics showing that crimes committed with a handgun approached 1 million in 1992 and occurred at a record rate.
Handguns were used in a growing percentage of violent crimes, because handgun use was up while overall nonfatal violent crimes dropped in 1992, the department said.
Well before these precise numbers were available, Congress responded to reports of growing handgun use by passing the Brady bill last November. Signed by Clinton, that law requires a five-day waiting period before completing handgun sales so local police can check the background of the purchasers. It took effect at the end of February.
Clinton met with the families of two slain police officers before giving his speech. He stopped near the audience afterward to chat with Devin Cutugno, 11, and Trina Cutugno, 9, of Staten Island, N.Y., grandchildren of an officer killed in 1964. Turning way from the children, both in wheelchairs, Clinton wiped his eye.
″We pay tribute not only to those who have died but to those who have lost them,″ he said during his speech.
And he commended officers ″who still go to work every day not knowing for sure if that day they will be required to make the ultimate sacrifice.″