Clinton Turns to Anti-Crime Initiative
Aug. 11, 1993
WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton today unveiled his anti-crime package as a ''major down payment'' on his campaign pledge to put tens of thousands of new police officers on the street and tighten gun controls.
The president said he would sign an executive order today suspending imports of foreign-made assault-style handguns. A second executive order seeks to tighten regulations about who can sell guns.
''The first duty of any government is to try to keep its citizens safe,'' Clinton said in a Rose Garden ceremony, with rows of uniformed police officers serving as a backdrop.
Clinton said the package will include $3.4 billion over five years to put an additional 50,000 police officers on the streets. ''The plan is designed to make the major down payment on the pledge that I made in the campaign to put 100,000 police officers on the street,'' he said.
Clinton also reiterated his support of the gun-control bill named for James Brady, the former White House press secretary who was wounded in the 1981 assassination attempt on President Reagan.
A statement released by the White House said recent attacks on children at a swimming pool in Washington and at a law firm in San Francisco underscore the need for Congress to consider legislation limiting the sale and availability of semiautomatic assault-style weapons.
''Too many weapons of war are making their way on to the streets,'' Clinton said.
Gwen Fitzgerald, a spokeswoman for Handgun Control Inc., said Clinton's executive orders would close a ''tremendous loophole'' in the ban on assault- style weapons imposed by President Bush, which only applied to rifles. For example, Clinton's move would ban the Uzi pistol, which is nearly identical to the carbine version, only shorter.
The executive orders were needed because ''the efforts to keep handguns out of the hands of criminals cannot and should not wait for the passage of legislation,'' Clinton said.
Bruce Reed, White House deputy domestic policy adviser, said the ban on imports of assault-style pistols would not affect the 10,000 for which import permits have already been granted, and he acknowledged that imports make up only a small part of the market.
When President Bush banned imports of assault-style rifles in 1989, there were permit applications for 1 million of them, including AK-47s, government officials said then.
James Baker, the National Rifle Association's chief lobbyist, said the new order would have no effect until the government issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would define what is meant by an assault-style handgun.
Critics of proposed controls on such weapons have said the only real difference between them and other semiautomatic weapons was cosmetics.
Clinton's second executive order requires a review of rules governing gun dealers to tighten regulations that now let virtually unsupervised individuals who pay the $30 annual license fee sell guns out of their homes or cars.
As for the whole crime package, Baker said, ''They're short on criminal justice and long on firearms restrictions. ... We would hope they would do something about the people actually perpetrating crimes as opposed to restricting the rights of law-abiding citizens.''
Senate Judiciary Chairman Joseph Biden said the Brady bill should be passed in advance of the other components in the package.
The anti-crime package includes a five-day wait on handgun purchases and would require background checks on would-be buyers to keep handguns away from criminals, the White House said.
The package would also restore the death penalty for federal crimes that existed before the Supreme Court temporarily overturned capital punishment in 1972, including the murder of certain federal officials.
Biden introduced a habeas reform bill Friday that was negotiated with the National Association of Attorneys General and the National District Attorneys Association. Biden, D-Del., and House Judiciary Chairman Jack Brooks, D-Texas, attended the ceremony, as did Attorney General Janet Reno.
Biden's bill would limit state inmates to a single federal habeas corpus appeal, subject for the first time to a sixth-month limit. Meanwhile, Biden had said, poor defendants in capital cases would get lawyers, ''meeting tough, specific standards of knowledge and experience'' at every step of the legal process.
Limiting habeas corpus appeals to the federal courts by state death-row inmates was one issue that brought down last year's crime bill. Clinton's package borrows heavily from the 1992 bill.
Clinton said the package includes community ''boot camps'' for young criminals, an initiative he introduced in Arkansas as governor as an alternative to long prison stays.
''This is the beginning of our efforts to restore the rule of law on our streets,'' Clinton said of the package.
The package also includes:
-A four-year, $100 million Police Corps initiative, giving college scholarships and police training to up to 5,000 students who are willing to make a four-year commitment to police work.
-A $475 million, five-year program to help create ''safe havens'' in and around schools.
-Spending more than $700 million over the next five years to put as many as 5,000 sworn and non-sworn officers to work in law enforcement, security and community policing in public housing.
As a candidate, Clinton spoke frequently of his desire for 100,000 additional police officers to make America's streets safer.
Half are already included in other bills such as the national service program and the budgets of the Housing and Urban Development and Education departments.
The rest, to be devoted to community policing - meaning beat officers who know their neighborhoods - will be included in the crime package.