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The President's Radio Address

August 20, 1994

Good morning. This morning I want to talk with you about crime and violence. All of us know it's too familiar a threat to Americans in almost every neighborhood in our country.

Right now, just as I'm delivering this address, the family, friends, and neighbors of a 13-yearold boy are gathered in a church not far from the White House to lay him to rest. His name was Anthony Stokes. He was shot last Saturday night apparently by another boy about the same age.

Later this morning, as Anthony Stokes' family buries him, House and Senate negotiators will meet to finish work on the crime bill. Soon after, each Member of the House of Representatives will face a simple choice, to pass the toughest attack on crime in history or to block it one more time. We must not walk away from the American people in the fight against crime.

Anthony Stokes was killed just 2 days after Congress succumbed to intense political pressure and allowed the crime bill to be derailed. We fought hard over the last 10 days to get it back on track. And it is back on track because Members of Congress of both parties have worked together in good faith, determined to deliver a crime bill for the American people.

Now Congress must finish the job and pass the crime bill I've been fighting for for nearly 2 years now. When they do, it's going to make a difference in every town, every city, every State in our country.

It's a tough bill. It'll put 100,000 new police officers on our street, a 20 percent increase in the number of officers walking the beat, protecting our neighborhoods, and preventing crime as well as catching criminals. It will shut down the revolving door on our prisons and make violent criminals serve their time. Police officers and law-abiding citizens should no longer have to watch in fear and frustration as dangerous criminals are put right back on the street. It will stiffen penalties for criminals who prey on children. It will protect unsuspecting families from sexual predators in their communities by requiring local authorities to alert them to their presence. It will lock the most dangerous criminals up for good by making "three strikes and you're out" the law of the land.

But this crime bill is smart as well as tough, because our approach recognizes what the law enforcement community has been saying for years and years. There isn't a single victim of crime who wouldn't trade the toughest sentence in the world for some way to have prevented the crime from happening in the first place.

That's why this bill includes an unprecedented effort in crime prevention, to help kids stay away from crime and drugs and gangs. It gives them something to say yes to. At the same time, we make it clear there are some things young people must say no to. The crime bill bans juvenile ownership of handguns. There's no reason why kids should be carrying guns to schools instead of books.

Finally, it bans deadly assault weapons that were designed to be used in war for rapidfire combat. Today they are the weapons of choice for gangs and drug dealers who use them to outgun police officers and to kill innocent people. They don't belong on our streets, and the crime bill will take them off.

And the entire crime bill will be paid for— and this is important—not with a new tax, not by taking money away from some other needed service but by reducing the size of the Federal bureaucracy to its lowest level in 30 years.

This crime bill answers the call of every parent afraid that random violence will harm a child, of every police officer who's been hurt or killed by the terrible fire power of an assault weapon, of every innocent, law-abiding man, woman, and child in America. The crime bill offers this pledge: From now on, our Government will do everything we can to make sure that people who commit crimes get caught, that those who are guilty are convicted, that those who are convicted serve their times, that those who can be saved from a life of crime are found when they're young and given a chance to do better.

For all these reasons, and for a young man named Anthony Stokes who's being laid to rest today, we must not let this chance pass us by. We must seize the opportunity before us to make a dramatic difference in every neighborhood. And as we do, I hope we can make a difference in the way our Government works.

Let today mark the beginning of a determined effort on the part of all of us to work in good faith across party lines. I have shown my good faith, and in so doing I have taken the risk that all people take when they talk to people who have opposed them.

Soon the Congress will have a chance to show the risk was worth it. And once they pass the crime bill, the way will be clear for us to attack other problems together, across party lines, as the American people want us to do and as we should.

Thanks for listening.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:06 a.m. from the Oval Office at the White House.

William J. Clinton, The President's Radio Address Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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