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Clinton Delivers Remarks Concerning Gun Control Agreement with Smith & Wesson

Aired March 17, 2000 - 2:19 p.m. ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to go over to the White House, now, the president and members of his cabinet are in the Oval Office to respond to the decision by Smith & Wesson to provide gun safety.

Let's listen.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... That's why we've pushed for common-sense gun safety legislation, why I've taken executive action to crack down on bad gun dealers, and why in December I said we would engage gun manufacturers in ways to seek changes in how they do business.

Today I am pleased to report that a key member of the industry has decided to set a powerful example of responsibility. Earlier today Smith & Wesson signed a landmark agreement with the federal government and states and cities across our nation. For the very first time, a gun manufacturer has committed to fundamentally change the way guns are designed, distributed and marketed.

Under the agreement, Smith & Wesson will include locking devices and other safety feature and will develop smart guns that can be fired only by the adults who own them. The company will cut off dealers who sell disproportionate numbers of guns that turn up in crimes and will require all its dealers not to sell at gun shows unless every seller at the shows conduct background checks.

The company has also agreed to design new firearms that do not accept large capacity magazines and will work with ATF to provide ballistics fingerprints for all its firearms.

This agreement is a major victory for America's families. It says that gun makers can and will share in the responsibility to keep their products out of the wrong hands. And it says that gun makers can and will make their guns much safer without infringing on anyone's rights.

It has taken courage and vision for Smith & Wesson to be the first manufacturers to negotiate and I applaud their determination to do right by their company and their country. As I've said all along, there are responsible citizens in the gun industry who do want to make progress on this issue. I hope today's announcement will encourage others to respond in kind.

This agreement could not have come to pass without the leadership of many mayors, city attorneys and state attorneys general. I'm glad to be joined today by Attorney General Eliott Spitzer of New York and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, as well as Mayors Alex Bonayis (ph) of Miami, Bill Campbell of Atlanta. In a moment, I'll be telephoning some other mayors; Joe Gannom (ph) of Bridgeport, Dennis Archer of Detroit, Roosevelt Doran (ph) of Englewood, California, Martin Royale (ph) of New Orleans, Jimmie Eve (ph) of Sacramento; as well as city attorneys Jim Hahn (ph) of Los Angeles and Maurice Renny (ph) of San Francisco; and the city attorneys of Berkeley, California, Camden, New Jersey, and St. Louis, to congratulate them as well on joining this agreement and to urge them to continue to work to keep our children safe.

I'd also like to express my appreciation to former Congressman Mike Barnes, the new president of Handgun Control.

I thank them all, as well as the members of our administration team who worked so hard on this; Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and Deputy Secretary Eizenstat, Attorney General Reno and Deputy Attorney General Holder, HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo and my domestic policy adviser, Bruce Reed. They have also worked very hard to bring us to this history moment.

Let me say again today, the effort to reduce gun violence, to protect our children, to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and children is not about politics, it is about saving lives.

This agreement shows we can get so much done when we find the courage to find common ground.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION: What's the chance of other companies falling in line?

CLINTON: Well, I don't know, you know. Smith & Wesson is a real giant in this field, and, as I said, it took a lot of courage for the company and its leader to do this, but I think the American people will have such an overwhelmingly positive response to what they have done that I would hope the other manufacturers would follow suit.

We have had some success -- you know, a number of other manufacturers are already embracing the idea that new hand guns ought to have child trigger locks. So I hope that they will do these things. We continue to work on smart gun technology.

And I think saying that they won't continue to allow their guns to be sold by dealers that don't clearly follow the law and that they won't participate in gun shows that don't do background checks -- that's a big deal. That's a very important thing.

And so -- I really -- I'm very pleased by what they've done and I think -- as I said, I hope the American people will express their appreciation to Smith & Wesson, and I hope that others will follow suit.

QUESTION: Mr. President, do you expect to announce any of the measures that you talked about yesterday that you hope to do in the next couple days to reduce the affects of high oil gas and diesel prices?

And a second question, if I may, on the same subject. Did you (inaudible) when you spoke to him yesterday or with any other Saudi officials, and did they give you any assurances regarding production increases in the March 22 OPEC meeting?

CLINTON: Well, the answer is yes, I expect to have something to say before I leave for India. And, yes, I talked about the markets with His Majesty King Fahd. And I think it's appropriate for me to let the OPEC members make their own decisions, but the Saudi's have already expressed their support publicly for a production increase. I think everybody's struggling now to find a consensus.

The point I've been trying to make is that it is necessary -- in order to get the oil prices down to an acceptable level, but still have them at a high enough level to earn a fair return to the producing countries, and to keep them from precipitously falling and destabilize the world economy, again, as they did a couple of years ago, it's necessary to have a substantial production increase that will not only close the gap between production and consumption on a daily basis also enable the new stocks to be rebuilt, because a lot of the oil price stocks have been drawn down, they're too low, and that's one of the things that's spiked the market so significantly.

But I think that, in terms of the decision they'll make, that's for them to make, and they'll have to announce it. And I think they're struggling to try to get a consensus.

But they are, I think, concerned because the last time they increased production there was this really big fall in the oil prices, to a level that even those of us in the consuming countries thought was too low, but the problem is that time they increased production just as the global economy went down -- the Asian financial crisis and other problems. This time, we had the reverse effect: just as the global economy was coming up, in Asia and the Europeans were growing, they cut production, which had exactly the reverse impact, so first prices went too low, now they've gone way too high.

And just -- in our country, for example, the lower-income motorists or other motorists who live in rural areas and places where they have to drive a long way to work and a lot of truckers, particularly independent truckers, have really, really been hurt by this situation.

So there is a stable win-win situation here, where the fuel prices will be affordable by the American people and others, and they will still be able to have a fair return on their production, and not risk the precipitous fall that they endured over the last couple of years. So they've got to find the right balance. They can do that. But as I said, we need to have enough to meet daily consumption requirements and to rebuild the stocks.

QUESTION: Mr. President, any thoughts on the elections on Taiwan?

CLINTON: Well, we've already said publicly that we want to see a resumption of the cross-strait dialogue as soon as the election is over. But the election in Taiwan is for the Taiwanese people and I don't think I should comment on it until they have all their votes in and they'll elect a new president and then we'll go from there.

QUESTION: Mr. President, from a foreign policy standpoint, what is your best hope for this series of meetings this afternoon with Irish leaders, and what is your best hope on your upcoming trip to India and Pakistan?

CLINTON: Well, first of all, the good news about Ireland is that even though the institutions have been taken down over the difference between the parties on decommissioning, no one wants to go back to the way it was or give up the peace process. The voters in Northern Ireland in both communities have overwhelmingly voted for it, and I think there's no sense that I got yesterday, in my first round of encounters with the leaders, that there's any desire to go back to the way it was.

I think what we've got to do is to find a formula by which the institutions can be restored, the people can get back to governing. They actually found out they were quite good at working together, and they were getting a lot done, and we need to restore that process. And we need to restore a process that will eventually lead to all the requirements of the Good Friday accord being observed. And we'll just keep working on it until we find that answer.

And on the South Asia, obviously what I hope to do first is to rekindle the relationship between the United States and India.

It's the world's largest democracy. No president has been there in 22 years. We have a lot of things that we can do together, a lot of mutual interests.

I want to do what I can to reduce tensions on the Indian subcontinent, to reduce the likelihood of weapons proliferation and the likelihood of conflict, and I want to do what I can to support the restoration of democratic rule in Pakistan, and to continue our cooperation with them against terrorism, and in many other ways that we have both profited from over many decades.

I also will be going to Bangladesh, and I'm looking forward to that. I have seen a lot of the initiatives taken in Bangladesh, particularly for the empowerment of poor people, that I think are important there and throughout the world.

And if you look at the size and the potential of the Indian subcontinent, if they could find a way to manage their difficulties, there's probably no other place in the world with the capacity for growth and modernization other the next two decades that you will find there. If you look at the success of Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis in the United States, that's clear evidence of that. So I'm going to do the best I can.

QUESTION: You have a meeting coming up with the Syrian president?

CLINTON: I don't have anything else to say about my foreign policy agency today. But I will, in the next several days, continue to talk to you about all this stuff, and I thank you.

WATERS: The president in the Oval Office today commenting on South Asia, his upcoming trip to Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh, saying he hopes to rekindle relationships with India, and reduce tension and the likelihood of conflict on the subcontinent.

As to Ireland, where he is currently meeting at the White House with Irish leaders, no sense that anyone wants to turn back to the way it was.

On Taiwan, no comment.

On oil prices, his administration, he says, is working to stabilize prices and keep those prices consistent.

The purpose for being in the Oval Office was to give the administration's reaction to the announcement earlier today of an agreement with the federal government by Smith & Wesson, the nation's largest gun manufacturer to make guns safer, an agreement that provides for new safety and design standards. For instance, external locking devices on handguns at Smith & Wesson within 60 days; an internal locking device within 24 months; a second hidden serial number inside the gun, criminals often obliterate the serial number, this would be a hidden one inside; and within 12 months, handguns must be designed so that they cannot readily operate by a child under 6.

You will hear much more about this in the hours and days and weeks ahead. But Smith & Wesson, as you may know, is only one of eight major gun manufacturers. The settlement was reached after a threatened lawsuit by local, state and federal prosecutors. As to the other seven major gun dealers, the president could only say: I hope the others will follow suit.



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