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Remarks on Anticrime Legislation

August 15, 1994

Thank you. Thank you very much, Marc, Janice, Steve, and Dewey, and to all the rest of you who are here. We have just heard from the real American interests in the crime bill.

Last week, the House of Representatives walked away from Polly Klaas and Jody Sposato and James Darby and all the law enforcement officials in this country who have worked so very hard for this crime bill. When you walk away from our police officers and from our kids, from our hard-working citizens with their futures before them or our senior citizens who have given their lives to make this a better country, and you do it on a procedural trick so you can still go back home and pretend that you didn't vote against the crime bill and you would even have voted for it had it only come to a vote, there's something wrong with the American system of Government. And it finds its way into the lives of people that are still around. Polly's sister, Annie, told me she's still afraid of being kidnapped, so she's built an elaborate alarm system in her room with ropes and bells. There's something wrong when James Darby and his classmates who are still living were so afraid of violence that they had to participate in a special program to help them cope with it. And the worst part of their fears is that there's truth behind them.

Yes, this is the greatest country in the world and the longest lasting democracy in the world. And none of us would live anywhere else for anything. But we have to face the fact that we have the highest murder rate in the world and that our children are more at risk here than they would be in most other countries and all other advanced countries because we have simply failed to act with the discipline and determination necessary to preserve democracy's most fundamental obligation, the maintenance of law and order, without which freedom and progress cannot proceed.

The crime bill makes "three strikes and you're out" the law of the land, puts 100,000 police on the street, builds more prisons to lock up serious offenders, takes handguns away from juveniles and bans assault weapons and provides investments and prevention to give our kids a better start in life, deals more sensibly with the terrible scourge of drugs that are responsible for so many of the crimes we have. These are things which ought to be done.

How can the House explain to Marc Klaas why the law that might have saved his daughter's life, had it been enacted years ago, couldn't come up for a vote? How could a politician go to a little child like Meghan Sposato and explain that, well, they just couldn't figure out a way to bring to a vote a law that would have taken the deadly weapon that killed her mother out of the hands of a deranged person? And how could a Member of Congress explain to James Darby's mother why they won't put police on the street who might have allowed little James to complete his last walk home?

If Washington had acted 6 years ago, some of these lives might have been saved. If Washington will act this week, a whole lot of lives can still be saved.

Last Friday I met with some police officers in Minnesota. I told them that they had never walked away from us and that Washington should not walk away from them. Well, the parents of this country should have the same pledge, and the children of this country should have the same pledge. You heard Janice say that in James Darby's wonderful letter to me, which I have read over and over and over again since last Mother's Day, he said, "I know you could do something about this, and I'm asking you nicely to do it."

Well, my fellow Americans, we have asked the Congress nicely long enough. There should be no more excuses, no more tricks, no more delays, and no more discussion about whether this bill is a Democratic bill or a Republican bill or a Clinton bill. I don't know when I will ever be able to get it across to people here that what we do here is not about us, it is about the rest of America. So let Congress hear this: Pass the Darby-Klaas-Sposato crime bill, and do it now.

Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 1:55 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Marc Klaas, father of kidnap-murder victim Polly Klaas; Janice Payne, whose son, James Darby, was killed shortly after he wrote to the President about crime in his community; Steven Sposato, whose wife, Jody, was killed in a shooting; and Dewey R. Stokes, national president, Fraternal Order of Police.

William J. Clinton, Remarks on Anticrime Legislation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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