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Exchange With Reporters at a Chicago Housing Authority Police Substation

June 17, 1994

North Korea

Q. Mr. President, has the U.S. stopped the pursuit of sanctions against North Korea at the U.N.?

The President. No, I gave my position yesterday; that hasn't changed. The position I stated yesterday has not changed.

Q. But Jimmy Carter has told——

Q. What is President Carter talking about?

Q. ——that he thinks you're willing to put sanctions off for a while, sir,

The President. I made my statement yesterday. You have to rely on my statement. I was very clear, very unambiguous. None of us have talked directly with President Carter. We don't know what he said. And I don't think—I don't think you should—[inaudible].

[At this point, the President took a tour of the police substation.]

Weapons and Anticrime Legislation

The President. Now, all these assault weapons, these tech-knives, and these weapons with the big magazines, will all be banned under the crime bill. They started the conference yesterday, and since both Houses have adopted the assault weapons ban, if they reach agreement, send it back, and both Houses pass it, and the assault weapons that are here, those with multiple magazines and—I mean, multiple ammunition in the magazine—and that otherwise qualify would be banned.

We just left, in the next room over here— this is a representative sample, but we left— in this one police station, there are 1,500 of these weapons that were confiscated from public housing units, of all these different kind of weapons. This is a huge problem. The police don't have a chance. And these people can't live in safety unless we give them some means at least to get the most dangerous weapons out of here and then provide more police officers so they'll be able to deal with the other problems.

Q. Mr. President, the 1,500 weapons in the other room, do you have some sense of how many would be covered by the assault weapons ban?

The President. No, I didn't disaggregate it. But the largest number in the other room that I saw were these tech-knives. They have them just stacked up row after row after row of four and five of them. They sort of—these little weapons have kind of become the weapons of choice, haven't they?

Q. Do you think that the crime bill would get—the gun ban would get gang members from—keep them from getting these anyway? If they want them, aren't they going to get them?

The President. Well, I think that it will make a significant difference. I think there will be fewer of them in circulation. I think you're going to see a lot of gun buy-back programs in every major area in the country. We want to support those. And I think over a couple of years it can make a significant difference.

I think that the percentage of weapons which are assault weapons, automatic and semi-automatic assault weapons, will go down dramatically over the next few years. Now, this problem didn't develop overnight, and it's going to take us some time to deal with it. But the ban needs to pass. It's a very important thing.

Q. Mr. President, you've supported sweeps in the past as a method to get guns and stop crime in public housing. Do you still support the sweeps?

The President. Absolutely. I support this policy here very strongly. We got a court decision which said there were some things wrong with it. So Secretary Cisneros, as you know came here, spent the night, worked with Mr. Lane and others here and put in a sweeps policy that I strongly support.

Q. But you think——

The President. People have a right to live in a place without being subject to this. There are children here. There are working people. There are mothers. There are fathers. They deserve a chance to live in safety. The right of the community to live in safety and wholeness is the first and most important right of any civilized society.

Q. But should people have to choose between the right to privacy and the right to live in safety and security?

The President. No, but we all are willing to give up some of our privacy rights from time to time. For example, no American complains anymore about going through a metal detector at an airport. And no one even considers it an invasion of privacy anymore. At least I don't. I'm more than happy to do it for the security I have when I get on an airplane that I'll get to my destination, other things being equal.

Q. Sir, were you urged to deal on the racial justice amendment in order to get the crime bill through?

The President. Well, they just started the conference yesterday. We're going to have to wait and see where the people are. Give the conferees a chance to work through it. I'll say this: The most important thing of all in my opinion is to get the 100,000 police out; to get the assault weapons ban out; to get the programs out on crime prevention, drug treatment, giving these kids things to do, you know, some activities after school and jobs in the summer and things that will really give our young people a chance to say yes to something and not just to say no to something, the things that will really hammer down the crime rate. And I think that—the one thing I will say is that the Congress cannot walk away from this. This is an enormous opportunity. This will be the most major piece of anticrime legislation ever passed by the United States Congress, beyond question. It must pass, and it ought to pass now.

North Korea

Q. Mr. President, could we try one more time for a clarification on the difference between what President Carter——

The President. I don't know what he said, and I don't know that you know what he said. All I know is what I said, and what I said is the policy of the United States of America.

Q. And the pursuit of sanctions will continue at the present time?

The President. I explained yesterday what the conditions for resuming negotiations and suspending the pursuit of sanctions were. Nothing has changed. That is the policy of the United States.

NOTE: The exchange began at 9:45 a.m. in the police substation at Robert Taylor Homes.

William J. Clinton, Exchange With Reporters at a Chicago Housing Authority Police Substation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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