Letter to the Majority Leader of the Senate on the Crime Control and Safe Streets Bill.
[Released May 9, 1968. Dated May 8, 1968]
The Senate is approaching a moment of decision for America, as debate proceeds on the Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968.
I would hope that three facts--three crucial facts--can illuminate that debate.
First, a harsh reality faces the most affluent Nation on earth. Crimes of violence threaten to turn us into a land of fearful strangers. The triple-lock door and the street that empties quickly at nightfall are unhappy symbols in modern America. The rapist and the mugger, the racketeer and the robber leave heavy scars on our society.
Second, the key to effective crime control is effective law enforcement--at the local level. As I have repeatedly stressed, crime is a local problem. It must be defeated in the community it corrodes.
Third, the machinery of local law enforcement all across the Nation must be strengthened before it can carry out its mission effectively. Far too many local police forces are ill-paid, ill-equipped, and ill-trained.
Fifteen months ago, based on a study I had conducted by the President's Crime Commission, which was composed of the most carefully selected and outstanding experts in the field--the most authoritative study of crime in America ever conducted-I then urged the Congress to immediately launch a massive effort to revitalize local law enforcement--from crime prevention to the apprehension of criminals to the system of corrections.
That proposal--the Safe Streets program--is now embodied in Title I of the bill before the Senate.
Through federal grants to local communities and states, it will put new strength into the entire network of crime control and criminal justice. It will give the policeman on the beat--who risks his life to protect our homes and families--better training and equipment for his job. It will reward him with better pay for his service. It will put the resources of modern science behind his efforts.
I urge the Senate to pass Title I. It is long overdue and urgently needed. Delay will be a victory for the criminal--from the petty thief to the kings of organized crime. The losers will be the American people.
The pending bill also addresses itself to another urgent national concern--the need for gun control legislation.
I have sought a proper and strong gun control bill for as long as I have been President.
Title IV takes a long step toward public safety, by helping to keep pistols and other hand guns away from the dangerous and the deranged.
But it does not go far enough.
It fails to provide the same protection against weapons which are just as deadly in criminal hands--the rifle and other long guns.
Now, it is time to stand up and show we are not a Government by lobby but a Government of law.
Has not the high powered mail order rifle brought tragedy enough to America? What in the name of conscience will it take to pass a truly effective gun control law?
The issue of immediate importance is to bring safety to our streets.
We can best do this by:
--Strengthening the Gun Control Law.
--Writing the provisions of Title I (the Safe Streets Program) into the statute book without delay.
--Not encumbering the legislation with provisions raising grave constitutional questions and which might jeopardize the prompt passage of Title I.
In the clear and compelling interest of 200 million Americans, I urge the Senate to enact Title I--now.
The mugger and the murderer will not wait.
Neither must we.
LYNDON B. JOHNSON
[Honorable Mike Mansfield, United States Senate, Washington, D.C.]
Note: The Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 was approved by the President on June 19, 1968 (see Item 320). The act was amended on August 8, 1968 (Public Law 90-462, 82 Stat. 638).
The Gun Control Act of 1968 was approved by the President on October 22, 1968 (see Item 553).
Lyndon B. Johnson, Letter to the Majority Leader of the Senate on the Crime Control and Safe Streets Bill. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/237514