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Statement on Signing the Federal Anti-Tampering Act

October 14, 1983

Last year about this time, the Nation was shaken by the Tylenol tragedy in Chicago. Seven people lost their lives as a result of that vile and reprehensible act of product tampering. The repercussions of that tragedy were felt far beyond the boundaries of Chicago, however, as every American became keenly aware of the tremendous harm that can be done by a single deranged person.

Although the FBI was heavily involved in the investigation of the Chicago tragedy, the Department of Justice quickly realized that Federal jurisdiction in such cases was questionable and that Federal law only provided misdemeanor sanctions for product tampering. During the 97th Congress, Senator Strom Thurmond steered through the Senate legislation to establish tough Federal sanctions for product tampering. Unfortunately, Senator Thurmond's bill was ultimately added to a defective House bill which I found it necessary to disapprove in January.

In this Congress I included similar legislation as part of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, which I submitted to Congress on March 16th of this year. In addition, Senator Thurmond reintroduced separately his product tampering legislation as S. 216 in the Senate, and Representatives Bill Hughes and Hal Sawyer introduced similar legislation in the House. S. 216 was recently approved by the Congress.

S. 216 establishes Federal criminal jurisdiction over tampering with foods, drugs, cosmetics, and other consumer products. The maximum penalty for such product tampering, where it results in death, would be imprisonment for any term of years up to life plus a fine of $100,000. We believe this will put real teeth into Federal law and provide a meaningful deterrent to product tampering.

I cannot, however, let this occasion pass without noting that much more needs to be done by way of criminal justice reform. The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1983 proposes a broad range of anticrime measures. The Senate has moved quickly on this legislation and the Senate Committee on the Judiciary has reported virtually the entire package. We expect and urge that the full Senate will act on this legislation very soon. In light of the fact that in the 97th Congress the Senate passed a similar bill by a vote of 95-1, we are optimistic that the Senate will overwhelmingly approve this very important anticrime package.

While the Senate, both last year and again this year, has processed landmark crime legislation in the spirit of bipartisanship and compromise, the House of Representatives has taken no action whatsoever on the Comprehensive Crime Control Act. In the Senate, we have had bipartisan support led by Senators Thurmond, Laxalt, Biden, and Kennedy. In the House we have had no action, and nothing is scheduled. This is deeply troubling.

We are convinced that most Members of the House of Representatives are eager to vote on meaningful anticrime legislation. I hope the House Committee on the Judiciary and the House leadership will give the Members of the House an opportunity to vote on the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1983. This legislative package can make a difference. It is a reasonable and balanced package which not only strengthens criminal laws but makes those laws fairer. I urge the House of Representatives to join the Senate in taking prompt and serious action on the Comprehensive Crime Control Act.

Note: As enacted, S. 216 is Public Law 98127, approved October 13.

Ronald Reagan, Statement on Signing the Federal Anti-Tampering Act Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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