President Bill Clinton Discusses Assault Weapon Ban
April 6, 1998
CLINTON: Thank you very much, Secretary Rubin. Thank you
for your efforts.
Madame Attorney General, thank you. Mr. Vice President,
And to the members of the law enforcement community and
Secretary Kelly, Mr. McGaw, Attorney General Miller, Congressman
Engel, representatives of hand gun control and the victims of
violent crime, and to all of you who have come here today, I
thank you very much.
As the vice president and the attorney general and the
secretary of treasury said, five years ago, we made a commitment
as an administration to recover our nation's streets from crime
and violence, to provide security for our families and our
children. It required a new determination by communities and by
government. It took a new philosophy of law enforcement, based
not on tough talk, which was always in ample supply, but on
tough action and smart action -- a philosophy based simply on
what works: community policing; strong anti-gang efforts;
targeted deterrence; smarter, tougher penalties -- a
comprehensive strategy that includes all these elements and puts
community policing at its core.
We're well on our way to putting 100,000 new police officers
on the street ahead of schedule. And as the vice president just
told us, crime rates are dropping all across America to a
25-year low. Violent crime is down, property crime is down, and
murder is down dramatically.
From the crime bill to the Brady bill, from the
assault weapons ban to the Violence Against Women Act, our
strategy is showing results.
And Americans should take both pride and comfort in this
But statistics tell only part of the story. The real measure
of our progress is whether responsibility and respect for the
law are on the rise. The real test of our resolve is whether
parents can unlock their front doors with confidence and let
their children play in the front yard without fear. And the
fact remains that there are still far too many children in
harm's way, too many families behind locked doors, too many guns
in the hands of too many criminals.
No statistics can measure the pain or the brave resilience of
the families shattered by gun violence.
Some of them are here with us today, and I would like to
acknowledge them. People like Dan Gross (ph), Tawana Matthews
(ph), Brian Miller (ph), Burl Phillips Taylor (ph). Burl's
17-year-old son was killed with an AK-47.
Tragedies like theirs are a brutal reminder of the task still
before us. They are a challenge and a call to action that we as
a nation cannot ignore. And I thank these people for being
willing to continue to fight through their pain.
Thank you very much, all of you.
Thank you. Thank you.
If we are going to move forward in building a safer, stronger
America, all of us -- police and parents, communities and public
officials -- must work together. We must remain vigilant.
Last November I asked the Treasury Department to conduct the
thorough review Secretary Rubin has just presented.
That is why our administration has concluded that
the import of assault weapons that use large-capacity military
magazines should be banned.
As everyone knows, you don't need an Uzi to go deer hunting.
You don't need an AK-47 to go skeet shooting. These are
military weapons, weapons of war. They were never meant for a
day in the country, and they are certainly meant -- not meant
for a night on the streets. Today, we are working to make sure
they stay off our streets.
Two successive administrations have acted on this principle.
In 1989, President Bush banned the import of 43 semi-automatic
assault rifles. In 1994, this administration banned the
domestic manufacture of certain assault weapons. And in
Congress, Senator Dianne Feinstein and the late Congressman
Walter Capps led the fight against foreign gun manufacturers who
evade the law.
As long as those manufacturers can make minor cosmetic
modifications to weapons of war, our work is not done, and we
must act swiftly and strongly.
That is what Secretary Rubin's announcement amounts to today.
We are doing our best to say, you can read the fine print in
our law and our regulations all you want and you can keep making
your minor changes, but we're going to do our best to keep our
people alive and stop you from making a dollar in the wrong way.
It is our sworn duty to uphold the law, but it also our moral
obligation -- our obligation to the children and families of
law- abiding citizens, an obligation to stop the terrible
scourge of gun violence.
As parents we teach our children every day to
distinguish right from wrong. As a nation, we must also
remember where to draw the line. Today, we draw it clearly and
If we do this, if we follow the recommendations set forth in
this report, we chart the right course for America -- for a
future more free of fear and a new century brimming with
confidence and great promise.
Again, to all of you who played any role in this important
day, I thank you on behalf of the people and the children and
the future of the United States.
Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Mr. President, do you agree with the American
public that Ken Starr's investigation should have a limit?
CLINTON: Thank you all very much. Thank you.