THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
April 6, 1998
Remarks by the President
on the Assault Weapons Ban
The Rose Garden
10:55 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Secretary Rubin.
Thank you for your efforts. Madam Attorney General, thank you. Mr.
Vice President, thank you. And to the members of the law enforcement
community and Secretary Kelly, Mr. McGaw, Attorney General Miller,
Congressman Engel, to 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 have 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 progress.
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
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, Tawanna Matthews, Brian Miller, Byrl
Phillips-Taylor. Byrl'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
the fight through their pain. Thank you very much, all of 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 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 is 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 indelibly. If we do this,
if we follow the recommendations set forth in this report, we chart
the right course for America, toward 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.
11:03 A.M. EDT