Press Briefing by Attorney General Janet Reno, Secretary of H.U.D. Henry Cisneros, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Lee Brown, and Assistant Secretary of Treasury Ron Noble
The Briefing Room
10:00 A.M. EST
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: Our National Violent Crime Initiative is underway with a federal prosecutor now designated to coordinate our efforts in every one of the 94 districts in the country, with joint local, federal strategies for attacking violent crime already underway in many of the districts. I have had an opportunity to visit districts, to talk with state and local law enforcement, to talk with federal officials who are working with them. And I'm advised that we have not seen such cooperation in many years.
We have further to go, however. Our Weed and Seed program is reaching more communities now, up to 20 sites from 10 last year, apprehending more criminals, and developing more prevention programs that have proven to be successful. Our PAC program is working with local officials to bring new direction and energy to community crime prevention efforts.
As I travel across the country I hear real enthusiasm for these combined state and federal efforts that bring a focus on law enforcement, on the violent criminals, on what the federal government can do to assist local government in terms of law enforcement. I also see us coming together with cities and communities across this nation in crime prevention efforts, using the Office of Justice Programs, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Weed and Seed to work with them as true partners in providing monies that are truly needed.
But I'm not here to be a Pollyanna or to pretend that the crime problem is being solved. We've made some headway, but we've got more to do. The crime bill is now pending in the House and it has many helpful provisions. One of the refrains I hear as I travel across this nation is the need for more support for state prison systems to make sure that they are able to house the violent criminals for the length of time the judges are sentencing them. The bill will provide $3 billion in grant money to state and local governments to operate prisons and to make sure that we have truth in sentencing for violent offenders.
Programs to deal with youthful and drug offenders are in the crime bill, and they are critically important. Community after community have had the chance to visit our local drug court in Miami and want to replicate it but don't have the resources. Those resources would be provided in the crime bill.
And prevention programs that give kids something to say yes to. Our youth employment skills program, keeping schools open later are all in the crime bill and I think are critical provisions. We have announced a plan to restore funding for burn grant* multijurisdictional task forces, which so many sheriffs have pointed out is so critical to their efforts.
But the one aspect of our crime bill that I think is so critically important is the provision for the $100,000 police officers for community policing. In every community I have been to police departments either want to start it or have started it on a very small scale and want to expand it. Right now at the Department of Justice we are halfway through our police hiring grants program, a program designed to make a down payment on the 100,000 police officers. Four months ago we gave out our first grant; to date we have passed out $75 million for over 100 cities and towns to hire 1,000 new police officers. And those that got the first grants tell me they're making a difference. By the end of April when the program is complete we will have put 2,000 police officers on the streets in about 200 communities.
But for each jurisdiction we will have been able to help under this program, 15 more have applied. Three thousand cities, towns, counties and states have applied for this program. Some came in late and are not eligible, which brings the total to more. And we will only be able to assist approximately 200.
Everywhere I travel local officials say they need this help. The crime bill presents an unprecedented effort to tackle this problem. Its 100,000-use street-level police officers -- a 40- percent increase in the current national force of 250,000 streetlevel law enforcement officers -- is a vital effort.
We have much to do. I think the American people want us all to work together in a nonpartisan, thoughtful way to get this crime bill passed, that focuses on punishment that's fair and that fits the crime and that provides prevention alternatives that can make a difference.
I'd now like to introduce Secretary Henry Cisneros of HUD to talk about the work -- the really excellent work that's being done in Safe Home.
SECRETARY CISNEROS: Thank you very much, General. I was pleased to be here a month ago with the Attorney General, with Secretary Bentsen, and with Dr. Brown to discuss the initiation of an administrative initiative announced by the Vice President entitled Operation Safe Home. The thrust is to bring together the resources of multiple federal agencies and focus on those environments where people live with federal assistance; that is to say, public housing environments -- which, unfortunately, are seed beds for much crime in our central cities -- and assisted housing.
There was some skepticism raised at that time as to whether this was just an announcement or whether we intended to really put muscle behind it. I'm pleased to be here today to give you a sense of what the first month's results are on Operation Safe Home.
Our interagency approach to Operation Safe Home has led to 24 arrests and 14 indictments and the recovery of more than 25 weapons and $300,000 in drugs and cash. The white collar portion of Operation Safe Home, which deals with equity skimming and diversion of funds destined for housing repairs or other housing needs, has yielded six indictments and a guilty plea. The multifamily skimming effort has led to four civil settlements, with $9.9 million in repayments to multifamily projects, and $2.1 million to HUD, a double damages judgment of $1.6 million.
Let me give you an example of how Operation Safe Home works on the ground. On March 16th, as part of a task force effort in the city of New Haven, Connecticut, a team of 60 federal agents and police officers, DEA, FBI, HUD Office of Inspector General, and state and local law enforcement agencies arrested 12 individuals and seized drugs and firearms at and near public housing developments. The individuals were charged with selling and distributing drugs, firearms and risking injury to children.
Today HUD is announcing the availability of $232 million under a program known as Drug Elimination grants, the public housing drug elimination program, which will be available to local housing authorities to control and prevent drug use, drug trafficking and drug-related crime in these communities. Since 1989, when this program began, over 1,700 grants, totaling over $500 million, have been awarded to housing authorities. So you can see if we've awarded over $500 million from 1989 to the present, and this year, today, we're making available $232 million, almost half of the total, we have increased the amount of money available for this program. It goes directly to housing authorities for their use in attempting to get a handle on these problems.
HUD has also made available $75 million for what are called family assistance centers. These are family living environments in public housing where young people can have access to educational opportunities, recreational opportunities, and employment opportunities. And we tie those carefully into our anticrime strategies.
All of this will tie into the President's $6 billion anticrime initiative. One step in which HUD is involved is the encouragement of police residency in public housing and in central city settings, and I'm very pleased to say we're having tremendous success in persuading housing authorities to give up units so that police officers can come in at discounted or no rents and live in public housing development. It does seem to make a substantial difference.
So my message today is, in summary, threefold: First, when we work together this way we can produce results. And the last month has proven results already in public housing and housing settings. Secondly, a key is that the federal agencies work together in unprecedented ways. I want to thank the Attorney General because of the Justice Department entities involved in this effort -- DEA and the FBI, the U.S. Attorneys -- and the Treasury because of the role of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; and the Secret Service, which gets involved in money laundering investigations --all of which have collaborated to produce these successes and many more that we believe will be coming. It is reinventing government at its best when agencies can cross territorial lines, jurisdictional lines, and work together for results.
Finally, I pledge to join the Attorney General in her efforts over the next month -- over the next several weeks, I should say -- to do everything we can to pass the crime bill. That means going around the country talking to citizens who, in turn, can express their opinions to their legislators, and working as part of the White House team to pass this important measure which will build upon the successes as additional funds are available for both prevention and enforcement and punishment phases.
It's my pleasure now to introduce my esteemed colleague, Dr. Lee Brown, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
DR. BROWN: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
I also appreciate the opportunity to be here this morning to participate in the update on the administration's efforts to combat crime and violence and drug abuse.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy supports this nation's criminal justice efforts by coordinating and overseeing both the international and domestic antidrug abuse programs for all executive branch agencies. Additionally, the office serves to ensure that federal antidrug efforts support those of state and local governments through collaborative initiatives.
While the results of these initiatives may overlap with those of my colleagues here with me today, it is a coordination and a funding role played by ONDCP which is so very vital to success. The office has made some major inroads toward advancing President Clinton's goal to institute a sustained, organized, disciplined approach to combat crime, drugs, and violence. I want to briefly describe some of the initiatives that highlight the ONDCP's efforts toward achieving that goal.
ONDCP fosters collaborative federal, state and local antidrug efforts through its high-intensity drug trafficking area, or a program we call the HIDA program. During the past year, ONDCP provided funding to five HIDA regions around the country. This funding supports over 150 federal, state and local initiatives which include multiagency task force operations, intelligence-sharing networks, and investigative support centers. These HIDA programs target what we call gateway areas for drugs entering this country by working toward dismantling significant drug trafficking or money laundering organizations in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston, and along the southwest border.
Last year, these major task force operations seized more than 17 tons of cocaine and over $241 million in drug-related assets. While these statistics may reflect the outstanding efforts of several law enforcement agencies, it's significant to stress that it was through the HIDA program that federal, state and local agencies came together to conduct these joint operations.
I have been involved in law enforcement over 30 years at the local level, and during that time I've seen the conflict and the lack of cooperation between state and -- particularly state and local and the federal agencies. That is not the case today. Never in the history of my career have I seen a better working relationship between federal, state and local agencies than is the case now.
This year this administration has taken another important step in combatting drug abuse by integrating treatment services into the HIDA program. Last month I designated the Washington-Baltimore region a high-intensity drug trafficking area. The primary focus of this HIDA, which is expected to be a prototype for future initiatives, will be to reduce hardcore drug use through the region by coordinating treatment services with law enforcement programs.
I think we all know that jails around the country are filled with nonviolent criminals who commit minor crimes so they can buy their daily doses of crack or heroin. This HIDA will not only work to reduce the amount of drugs available to those chronic hardcore drug users, but it will also work to minimize the impact of the heroin addict who steals the carton of cigarettes from the 7-11 by treating the cause or the problem of his addiction. The logic is quite clear. We have to not only deal with the problem itself, that is the crime; but also try to stop the problem by dealing with the addiction. And that's consistent with the strategy the President released, the national drug control strategy the President released a few weeks ago.
This will, in turn, free up jail space and other law enforcement resources which can be used to investigate and also incarcerate violent offenders. To be successful, this program will require the coordination of not only federal, state and local law enforcement, but also the treatment community and the courts. I've allocated $3 million in initial funding for this year toward the development and implementation of specific programs which will facilitate this coordination.
Through its role as a policy development and coordination office, ONDCP serves to integrate the many functions of the more than 50 federal agencies involved in the nation's antidrug efforts with those of state and local governments. We feel very strongly that this coordination, this working together, will be the process by which we can take back the streets of our cities block by block. And that's the objective; to make sure that this country is a safer country.
I also join the Attorney General and Secretary Cisneros in saying that the passage of the crime bill is extremely important. I'm particularly interested in seeing the 100,000 more police officers be made available to the police departments throughout this country, primarily to implement the concept of community policing. I know community policing works. It worked when I served as police chief in Houston, Texas. It worked when I was the police commissioner of New York City. In fact, in New York City, after only one year we saw crime go down in every major index category, and that had not occurred in the 36-year history of that department.
So it's important that we get about the business of passing the crime bill, working together as partners with state and local and federal agencies and the American public in order to make a difference.
Now I'm pleased to introduce the Assistant Secretary of Treasury Ron Noble.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOBLE: Good morning. This Thursday, March 31st, is the 13th anniversary of the attempted assassination of President Reagan and the wounding of former White House Press Secretary James Brady, someone who many of you knew. And therefore, in our view, it is fitting to discuss the impact of the Brady Law.
We all recall the challenges and the complaints many people had about how ineffective Brady would be. But if we look at this chart, we see the impact it's already had. In Houston, there were 2,183 forms processed and 199 denials. In Dallas, we see 48 denials. In Ohio, we see 41 denials and 8 were for fugitives. So we see the impact Brady is having. We're making it more costly, more expensive for people to purchase firearms. Convicted felons are trying to do it; fugitives are trying to do it; it's having a very real impact. And but for the work of the Attorney General and my colleagues up here and the President, Brady probably -- would not have been passed.
Also in the area of federal firearms licensing reform, prior to this year, there were only 240 inspectors at ATF processing federal firearms license applications. And the process was so rubber-stampish, if you will, that even dogs were receiving federal firearms licenses. And early this last year the New York City Police Department, in conjunction with ATF, embarked on a pilot project that, during last year, resulted in a 94-percent reduction of those people who received federal firearms licenses.
Now, why is that important? It's important because with 284,000 federal firearms license holders, which we currently have, it's impossible to regulate; it's impossible to do the sort of tracing that you need to go. Again, this will cost money, and the Secretary and the President are supporting an increase in licensing cost to cover the cost of doing the background inspections that you and I would want before giving someone the privilege of selling firearms.
Also, in conjunction with the Department of Justice, we continue to pursue what Treasury calls Achilles Project, where we target armed career criminals -- people who have had three serious violent felony convictions or drug trafficking convictions -- where if they're convicted of being in possession of a firearm after having these three violent felony convictions on their record or drug trafficking convictions, they go away for a minimum of 15 years -- in another important initiative that we're working in conjunction with the Department of Justice as well as the initiatives with HUD and with ONDCP.
So while I agree with the Attorney General and everyone else who says it's difficult to highlight in a very brief period what differences we've made, we are making differences. The cooperation which has been referred to is more difficult to quantify, but it's a spirit that makes all the difference in successful investigations versus unsuccessful turf battles.
One other area that I'd like to highlight is the Treasury Department has the ability to reclassify certain weapons as destructive devices if they don't satisfy any legitimate sporting purpose. The Secretary did that on February 28th; he reclassified an item called the Street Sweeper, which looks like the old tommy gun, but discharges shotgun shells instead of bullets, and discharges 12 shotgun shells within three seconds. The same weapon was found fully loaded and operational at the residence of one of the people who is suspected to have been involved in the shooting of the Hasidic Jews on the Brooklyn Bridge this year.
So in conjunction with the Department of Justice, HUD and with ONDCP, we at Treasury are committed to a coordinated effort to try to make a difference in the crime problem confronting this country. Thank you.
Q: Is there any hang-up in passage of the crime bill? Are you running into a problem?
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: I don't see any hang-up in the passage of it. I think it's just important that we focus on it as soon as Congress returns and that we all work together to fashion a balanced bill that punishes the dangerous and that does -- develops prevention programs with our communities that can keep kids from crime.
Q: General Reno, you might say that this briefing may have been called because the administration wants to present this united front. You may have seen this report, report out of U.S. News and World Report in particular, which says that the working group report on crime which is not being released by the White House suggests that that report is, in a sense, too soft compared with what the public mood might be right now. Could you respond to that?
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: I don't know -- I didn't see the article so I can't respond to the article.
Q: It says that the --
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: One of the things I learned never to do is to respond to articles that I haven't read. But I'll be happy to read it and have Carl give you a response.
Q: Well, have you seen the working group report?
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: No, I haven't.
Q: It's like an 89-page report.
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: No, I haven't.
Q: Are you advocating the truth in sentencing as part of the prison grants?
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: I think what we've got to do is to work with states to get dollars to them in ways that count so that they can begin to achieve truth in sentencing. I think it's important that we have -- work with them to set standards that they can meet and that end up ultimately making sure that these dangerous offenders get the sentence they deserve, and then actually serve it. Nothing is so frustrating for the American people than to see somebody out in 20 to 30 percent of the sentence when they were dangerous offenders.
Q: You were using the figure, 100,000 new cops. In New York, Mayor Giuliani says that doesn't meet the truth in packaging provisions and that actually it's funding of 20,000 cops for five years and only 75 percent funding. So it's really only 15,000 cops. Is that accurate or is that unfair?
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: I haven't heard his comment. What we have tried to do is to work with mayors throughout the country to make sure that what is provided for is something that is actually delivered. As a prosecutor on the streets of Miami, I used to get frustrated when I would hear federal promises that didn't materialize. And we want to make sure that there's funding in the crime bill to provide support for 100,000 police officers. We've always talked about developing a match. For those communities that can't provide the match there would be waiver programs. But we're dead-set and determined to make sure that when we promise something we deliver it.
Q: But is it 20,000 times five years, or is it 100,000 for a period?
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: It's 100,000 cops developed within the next five years.
Q: So it is 20,000 -- funding for 20,000 each year?
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: We would hire 100,000 over the next five years. Whether it was 20,000 for five years -- I'm not sure where he's coming from. But I'll be happy to contact his office and --
Q: What I'm trying to understand is whether -- is it 100,000 different people or 20,000 people --
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: It would be 100,000 different people is the aim.
Q: I understand you said that you put the money out for the first 1,000 --
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: Yes.
Q: and you've had good results. What were the good results?
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: I am told -- I visited in Orlando, for example, and I am told in their community policing initiative that they are having an impact. I have not gotten the statistics from them, but in all those that have received the grants and have had time to see them begin to be implemented or enhanced, I am told that they are making a difference.
Q: Ms. Reno, at one point months ago you said that just having more police officers may not be the answer for all police departments, that some police chiefs felt that they really couldn't absorb more police officers. Are you certain that these 100,000 new officers will be utilized properly?
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: I have never been so certain of it after talking with police chiefs around the country, visiting community policing initiatives, talking to citizens in the community. The desperate need that police departments have around the country to have police officers and this additional support that will permit them to transition to community policing is echoed everywhere I go. It's gotten so if I go to a community that's applied for a grant I can barely get out of the community without everybody saying, where is my money; why haven't you given me a grant?
I am absolutely convinced that the monies will be used wisely. I am absolutely convinced that just money for policing won't work, but money for sound community policing that focuses on targets in the community where priorities are developed with citizens in the community, where citizens are involved, and prevention efforts are implemented again with citizens can make a difference.
Q: If I might follow, you paid some attention to the crime problem here in Washington. And the District has about 50 percent more police officers per capita than the next largest city, yet clearly it's got a big crime problem nonetheless. What is the problem here, do you suppose, if it's not -- obviously it's not just more police officers -- I mean, not more police officers certainly the sole answer.
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: Well, as I have suggested, I don't think just more police officers. I think they have to be used the right way. I've obviously not made a close analysis of the District's issues, but I have asked Eric Colder*, the United States Attorney, to work with the Chief of Police and work with public officials to do what is -- anything the federal government can appropriately do to address the problem of focusing on the bad guys, the career criminals, taking steps to identify them and proactively go after them and make the arrest, apprehend the fugitives, get them sentenced to appropriate sentences, while at the same time developing appropriate prevention programs.
SECRETARY CISNEROS: General, if I may say a quick word on the District, because I think that sometimes that's trotted out as -- and it's not exactly a good comparison. And Lee Brown, as a police chief, may want to add a word.
The District of Columbia bears a different burden than any other city of 650,000 people, or so, as a result of the fact that it's the Nation's Capital. So it must allocate police officers to everything from traffic control to coordination with Executive Protective Services in the embassy areas and so forth; unusual number of parades and other civic gatherings and so forth. My guess is that while that number stands out, 50 percent more per capita, it really is because it's the District, because it's the Nation's Capital. And those police officers are not assigned to -- the presumption in the question is not as accurate as one might thing.
Q: Secretary Cisneros, do you have any idea how many police officers have taken up this offer to move into the public housing?
SECRETARY CISNEROS: I don't have an exact number for you, but it's happening in more communities and faster than I might have imagined. And if you are interested, I could actually take you to people who are doing that right here in the District of Columbia. We have several police officers who have now moved into housing developments.
But I would say, in many communities across the country it is happening. We're also now taking the next logical step which is to find ways to provide discounted housing for officers who want to live in central city neighborhoods, not public housing but in neighborhoods, by making HUD-owned homes, the so-called HUD homes that we take by foreclosure, available on some discounted basis to police departments for officers who want to live in the city.
Q: Are they told if they move in there with these discounts that if trouble breaks out it's assumed that they'll try to do something about it?
SECRETARY CISNEROS: A police officer, of course, is never truly off duty, carry weapons even when they're off duty in most jurisdictions. And so the assumption is, first of all, that their very presence, the fact that they drive a cruiser home, the fact that -- in many communities -- that they arrive in a uniform, that people know that they're there makes a difference.
Now, will they come out in the middle of a disturbance? Many will do that because it's their perception of their role as a police officer.
Lee, you might want to say a word on this concept -- in his role as a former police chief.
DR. BROWN: It's very consistent with the concept of community policing. It gives the police officer an ownership of a geographical area. I visited those locations myself, particularly one in Elgin, Illinois, and talked to the residents of the public housing community there. And they told the story of a dramatic and drastic and significantly important change for the better in the living conditions there as a result of having the police officers there.
And that is one of the reasons that the administration is so high, the President is so high on the concept of community policing, because it represents, if you would, a new way of thinking about police work, a new way of delivering police services. It involves a partnership between the police and the people to identify problems that are of concern to the residents -- not so much how the police see the problems but how the people see the problems -- and then jointly coming together to determine what are the best solutions to address the problem. And then using the resources of the police, other governmental agencies, the private sector and individuals to solve the problem.
And that's what's exciting about seeing this really quiet revolution take place in law enforcement today, supported by -- will be supported by the resources provided by the crime bill when passed by the Congress.
The additional police officers are important for community policing. An example being when I went to New York as the police commissioner -- the police officers spend 95, 96, 97 percent of their time just answering 911 calls. You can imagine that you can't really take the time to know the problems, to know the people to solve the problems if you're spending your eight-hour tour of duty just running 911 calls. You can also imagine there's not much job satisfaction in doing that.
In the community policing, officers will have the time to work on solving problems; thus, having a better utilization of the resource of the police department. So it's important to have the police officers, the bodies, to do community policing. And as I said, you can't solve problems if you have no time to do so. And you end up going back to the same locations over and over again. And so that's the reason you find that there's such great support throughout the policing field as well as the administration for the concept of community policing.
Q: Is the death penalty posing an obstacle --
Q: Could I -- I'm sorry, I have a question about the Treasury chart. These numbers -- are they handguns? In other words, in Houston, do we read that 199 people were told they could not buy a handgun?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOBLE: Yes.
Q: So that means that 2,183 people were told that, yes, they could buy a handgun. Does that mean the sale went ahead necessarily, probably?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOBLE: If forms were processed, assuming they had the money, the sales went ahead.
Q: Does that -- I mean, if you look at that, since February 28th, which is -- what -- three or four weeks ago, 2,183 handguns were bought in Houston. I mean, looking at these numbers another way, do you feel like maybe -- to me that's kind of stunning, to think --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOBLE: To me it's stunning that there are over 200 million handguns in the U.S. That's stunning, but what's more stunning is that there are people with records trying to buy these handguns and that we're able to catch them and stop them.
Q: Clearly, that's a good thing, but I just wondered if it makes you think about taking this a step farther, to banning handguns or --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOBLE: No. No.
Q: Why not?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOBLE: Because the problem that we're trying to address with Brady and that we have addressed with Brady is we're trying to address the problem of the wrong people having handguns. Now, a law-abiding American citizen who wishes to own a firearm should not be prevented from owning a firearm. That's a --
Q: Why should they have one?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOBLE: First of all, there's a constitutional right to bear arms we hear about time and time again.
Q: There is?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOBLE: I think there's a constitutional right to bear arms. And I also think there's a right, an individual right to protect himself or herself or one's family. So from my perspective, I don't do anything and wouldn't suggest anything that would impinge upon a U.S. citizen's right to purchase a firearm.
Q: Are you a member of the NRA?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOBLE: One might think so in light of my answer, right?
Q: Are you?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOBLE: I am not.
Q: Under Brady, the local law enforcement --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOBLE: I just want to respond. I am a college professor, law professor on leave. I may be returning more quickly than I'd like but -- (laughter.) That's my individual position. That's my individual position, just for the record.
Q: You have not at this point ruled on --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOBLE: Okay. It's my individual position, please.
Q: Brady requires the local law enforcement establishment to make a reasonable effort. There are more and more reports that many of these law enforcement agencies don't have the resources to make that reasonable effort, and that some even disagree with having to do it under Brady. My question is, has Treasury tried to force and follow up, and do you have the authority?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOBLE: We've tried to work cooperatively with state and local law enforcement officers. The starting point -- we worked very closely with the Justice Department -- was deciding who ought to be the chief law enforcement officer for each state. Ought it be one central locale like a state police department where they might have the resources to do the kind of comprehensive check? Or ought it be a local police chief who would know when an application came through with a false address that it was a false address? We try to work cooperatively with state and local law enforcement officers.
We believe one of the biggest controls or checks to make sure that Brady is followed is if that chief of police in some town in the U.S. doesn't do a Brady check, and that convicted felon purchases a firearm and hurts someone you know or someone in the town or someone in the community, that's a tremendous chilling effect, a tremendous check, a tremendous encouragement to make sure that people follow Brady. But beyond that, the law, as I understand it -- and I've just been reading memos recently; there's a question as to what action, if any, can be taken if a law enforcement officer in a particular state says I just don't want to do a check, I don't want to take reasonable steps or reasonable efforts --
Q: You mean you don't have the authority?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOBLE: Authority in terms of we have authority at Treasury over the federal firearms licence dealer. That's who we have control over. So at Treasury we don't have authority over the particular chief of police requiring him or requiring her to do it. But you can see that a lot of people are doing it. So if there's a possibility that one police officer or one county isn't doing it, I guess that's theoretically possible.
Q: Does Justice have any authority over that?
Q: Is the death penalty posing an obstacle to passage of the crime bill? That has been true traditionally. I guess the death penalty is in the Senate bill. There's opposition to it in the House.
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: No, I don't think so. I think everybody understands that there are provisions that they may oppose, but we are trying to work together to fashion a balanced bill that meets both the desires and appropriate aims for punishment and prevention.
In answer to your question, we are working -- want to work with state and local law enforcement to make sure that the Brady Bill is enforced as appropriate. And I think working together, explaining what can be done when you identify the number of people who are denied weapons, we can have an impact.
Q: Will expansion of the death penalty, though, wind up being part of this compromise? What will happen to it?
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: Yes, I believe it will.
Q: Can you just explain -- there were 50 denied in Dallas for reasons other than criminal history. What are the reasons? Are these all drug addicts?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOBLE: No, there are a number of reasons. You can be mentally unstable. You could have been --
Q: I know, but you don't know what they are?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOBLE: I don't have it for you, but I can provide it to you later, okay. Thank you.
Q: General, in view of yesterday's action by the Supreme Court on the insanity defense, what's your position on that?
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: One thing I learned long ago is to never comment on a Supreme Court opinion until I've read it, and I haven't had a chance to read it.
Q: it wasn't even a statement, it was just they wouldn't take the case. They let the Montana court ruling stand.
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: Again, the dumbest thing anybody can do is comment on a case when they haven't read it.
Q: Is the Justice Department involved in the Colosio investigation at all? Can you answer that?
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: No, I can't.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 10:40 A.M. EST
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Attorney General Janet Reno, Secretary of H.U.D. Henry Cisneros, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Lee Brown, and Assistant Secretary of Treasury Ron Noble Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269754