THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Chicago, Illinois) _________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release February 28, 1994 REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN DISCUSSION ON CRIME AND HEALTH CARE WITH DOCTORS, POLICE AND COMMUNITY MEMBERS Wright Junior College Chicago, Illinois
9:45 A.M. CST
THE PRESIDENT: I'm glad to see all of you. I'm glad to also be back at Wright Community College where I first came in December of 1992, although congressmen and mayors, you will remember, it was in a different facility. This is much nicer and newer. It's good to be back here.
We're here to talk about two things that relate to one another -- crime and health care. It's appropriate that we're having this discussion today, because today the Brady Bill becomes law. It requires background checks on anyone who buys a handgun or gun and will help to keep guns out of the hands of criminal and people who are mentally unfit. It will prevent now, we know, based on research, thousands of handgun murders all across our country.
Here in Illinois, where you already have a tough law similar to the Brady Law, it will prevent people who should not have guns from buying guns in other states, using them here to commit crimes.
Before we begin, I'd like to talk with Jim Brady who made history with his heroic efforts, along with his wonderful wife Sarah, to pass this bill. They worked for seven long years to pass it. I want to say Congressman Rostenkowski has supported the bill all along the way, but there was surprisingly continuing opposition in Congress. It all melted away last year. I hope that our campaign and election had something to do with it. But for whatever reason we had a good, good, strong bipartisan measure of support for the Brady Bill. It's now the law as of today.
And I just wanted -- I've got Jim Brady on the phone, I think. And I wanted to congratulate him and thank him for his efforts. Jim, are you on the phone?
MR. BRADY: Good morning, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Is Sarah there?
MRS. BRADY: I'm right here, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it's nice to hear you both.
MRS. BRADY: Well, it's good to hear from you.
THE PRESIDENT: As you know, I'm here in Chicago with a lot of people who understand the importance of what you've done. I'm here with doctors and other health care professionals who treat gunshot victims and people who are recovering from wounds. So I'm sure they're all very grateful to you just as I am today.
MRS. BRADY: Well, we thank you for your leadership and for their support. It took a real team effort to get this passed, and we thank you very much for it.
THE PRESIDENT: I know that you believe this is just the beginning in our fight; and I know that you've got a lot of
other objectives you want to try to achieve. I want you to know that we're going to be in there pulling for you and working with you.
MRS. BRADY: Well, thank you. We appreciate it.
MR. BRADY: We can't lose then.
THE PRESIDENT: Today, Secretary Bentsen is announcing that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is taking an assault weapon called the Street Sweeper off the free market.
MR. BRADY: Yeah.
MRS. BRADY: That's a wonderful move, and we applaud that highly. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: The weapon was originally developed for crowd control in South Africa. Several years ago, the U.S. government banned it from being imported, but it's still made and sold here. So today, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is reclassifying the Street Sweeper, and another assault weapon, the USAS-12, as a destructive devices, increasing the taxes on manufacturers and dealers and requiring the buyers to take extraordinary measures. Starting tomorrow, if you want to buy one, you have to appear in person, provide a photo id with fingerprints and have a local law enforcement officer verify that the buyer can own it in his home state. And that, I think, will make a big difference.
So, we're going to keep working on these things; we're going to try to pass this crime bill including the assault weapons ban in it. I know you're going to help us. And I just want to say on behalf of Chairman Rostenkowski and Mayor Daley and myself and all these fine health professionals that are here, we appreciate you and we're grateful to you, and I hope you have a great celebration today.
MR. BRADY: Thank you, Mr. President.
MRS. BRADY: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks Sarah. Bye Jim.
MR. BRADY: Bye now.
THE PRESIDENT: Take care.
Well, glad we could take a little time to talk to them. You know, Jim Brady has paid a terrific price for the fact that we didn't have the Brady Bill when he was wounded. I think it's remarkable that he and his wife are continuing to work on these matters and are continuing to get out there.
Chairman Rostenkowski, I'm glad to see you here today. Glad to have a chance to talk about this crime issue which you've been interested in for a long time and how it relates to the health care bill that we're working on in Congress now. Mayor Daley, I'm glad you're here. I know that you were the State's Attorney before you were Mayor, and I know you've worked very hard on the community policing. And every time I've ever talked with you, we've started our conversation with a discussion of crime. So I'm glad that you joined us here today.
I'd like to talk a little bit about the crime bill that's before the Congress and then introduce the people here around the table, and then invite the rest of you who are here, if we have time, to make some comments, because I think it's very important that we see that this crime problem is being manifested as a public health problem, too; and that many of you who deal with the -- the cost and the human tragedy of this can speak very
dramatically to why we need to change our laws and our policies.
Our crime bill does a number of things. It contains a three strikes and you're out provision written properly to really cover people who commit three consecutive violent crimes. It gives us 100,000 more police officers so that we can do more community policing. We know that that lowers the crime rate --if you have properly trained police officers on the streets, in the communities who know the neighbors and know the kids. It bans assault weapons and it provides funds for things like drug treatment and alternative treatment for first-time young offenders, like community boot camps.
Today, I'm hoping that your presence here will help not only people in Chicago and Illinois, but people all across American learn more about how the crisis in crime and violence is linked to the health care crisis in America.
Last week physicians from Chicago area trauma centers had a news conference with the Cook County Medical Examiner, Dr. Edmund Donahue (phonetic). They reported that largely because of the proliferation of rapid-fire automatic and semi-automatic and assault weapons, gun violence has become one of the leading health problems in the Chicago area. More than 2500 people every year are treated for gunshot wounds in Chicago area emergency rooms; and caring for them in the emergency rooms costs $37 million in this one community. In 1987, at Cook County Hospital, gunshot wounds accounted for 15 percent of the total funds used for the care of trauma patients. By 1992, this number had increased from 15 percent to 35 percent.
At the Cook County Hospital Trauma Unit from 1987 to 1992, the number of admissions for gunshot wounds increased from 449 to 1220, and accounted for 70 percent of the overall increase in admissions. That is a stunning fact. And all across Illinois, 1992 was the first year in this state where more people were killed by guns than by auto accidents.
According to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, gunshot wounds have become the nation's leading cause of traumatic death this year. From 1987 through 1992, 858,000 armed attacks took place every year, and in 1991 and 1992 16,000 people were murdered with firearms each year. This adds about $4 billion a year to hospital costs, and too often, of course, when one of us is stuck with a bullet, the rest of us are stuck with the bill. About 80 percent of the patients who suffer firearm injuries aren't adequately insured or eligible for government medical programs like Medicaid. So public hospitals cover the costs of the uninsured. Private hospitals charge higher rates for those who can pay, so the rest of us pay higher hospital bills, higher insurance premiums and higher taxes.
This morning I want to talk with you and let you basically talk to me and tell me whatever's on your mind about what we need to do and what you have experienced. The mayor and Chairman Rostenkowski and I have decided we'd like to hear from you first and then we may want to ask you some questions. And I know there are some other very distinguished people here, too , in the audience who may want to say some things. But let's start with the Chicago Police Superintendent, Matt Rodriguez, a strong advocate of community policing; and I want to thank you, sir for working with our National Service Program to implement our summer of safety. We're going to have several thousand young people working with police forces all across America to try to reduce the crime rate and relate better to the neighborhoods of this country this year. I thank you for that, and I want to give you the microphone for whatever you might like to say.
MR. RODRIGUEZ: Thank you very much, Mr. President. First of all, I would like to say that I would hate to think about what our homicide rate would be were it not for the
excellent medical professionals that we have represented here in this room. The other thing, Mr. President, during your State of the Union message you talked about getting tough and getting smart; and we like to think that our Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy -- CAPS is the acronym -- we like to think that that's what our strategy is and that's what our policy is. We intend to continue to fill the courtrooms and fill the jails, arrest the benders, but at the same time to look to prevention as really the long-range but the proper route for us to be taking. And we're talking about the area of narcotic use to look to treatment and those kinds of programs that were announced by Lee Brown . And we think that perhaps the strangest thing that's going on now -- and this is true across the country -- we just had a meeting of the major city chiefs, and there was a decrease in many of the major cities such as Chicago here, our homicide rate went down 9 percent last year, but yet this fear of crime was up; and this phenomenon is occurring across the country.
You might be interested to know, Mr. President, that the major city chiefs endorsed and sent a letter -- you'll be getting a copy -- endorsed the U.S. Conference of Mayors and their proposals to you, which goes back to the crime bill. But I think that we need to address it on a -- at the same time we address it on a long-range basis for prevention, we need to look at the fear of crime and see what we can do in that area.
THE PRESIDENT: I think one of the reasons that's happening is the numbers I just read off. While the overall crime rate is going down -- even the murder rate is dropping in many of our cities, especially where community policing strategies have been implemented; the violence among young people seems to be on the rise. And among young people who are shot with these semi-automatic weapons, a gunshot wound is more likely to end in death than it was just five or 10 years ago because you're likely to have more bullets in your body. I mean, there's a lot of evidence now to that effect.
So I think that we -- the law enforcement folks in this country are not getting the credit they deserve in many cities, being able to bring the crime rate down through community strategies. But a lot of it is the sheer violence of certain particular things. And I think the widespread use of these assault weapons in gang settings.
MR. RODRIGUEZ: The fastest growing segment of our criminal population are the young people. They're increasingly becoming the offenders. We find it again here in Chicago and across the country. That is the same indication I'm getting from other chiefs throughout the country.
THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Statter -- Dr. Mindy Statter is the Director of Pediatric Trauma at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Her unit is Level I, which means she gets the most intense and vulnerable trauma cases. Would you like to make a few comments?
DR. STATTER: Since I've been at Wyler, since 1992, I was aware of the increase in adolescent violence, but I wasn't aware that 10 percent of my patients were going to be victims of this violence.
Since I've been a pediatric trauma surgeon there, I've treated a child as young as one month of age -- single gunshot wound to the abdomen and died in the operating room. Most of our patients are -- 80 percent of our patients that are gunshot victims are young black males less than the age of 15 years of age.
I'd like to make one comment with regard to the monetary aspect of this. You pointed out that the money -- tax dollars go to to take care of these victims. I think it's very, very important to keep the consideration -- what happens to these
children once we pay for their -- (inaudible). A lot of these children become paraplegics, and they're lost from the work force; and not to mention the child that may just sustain a graze injury -- the psychologic trauma may significantly affect his performance in school.
So the end point and the subsequent effects of these injuries is also very important to take into consideration.
THE PRESIDENT: Do you have any -- how long have you been doing this work?
DR. STATTER: I've been at Wyler for two years.
THE PRESIDENT: Let me just say this: One of the most controversial parts of the crime bill, as you know, Mr. Chairman, in the House will be whether we can get the assault weapons ban that passed in the Senate passed in the House. I just sort of wanted to ask your opinion as a medical professional. We have a lot of police officers tell us that this is very important, not only because it winds -- without doing something on assault weapons you wind up often with the police in effect outgunned by people who have these weapons; but that it actually has increased the level of mortality from gunshot wounds because of the transfer from handguns -- regular handguns to assault weapons.
Have you seen that?
DR. STATTER: Not specifically. In the past few years, in 1992 we had 55 children that were gunshot victims, most of them males, young men; and there were five deaths. In '93 we had a similar number -- 55 gunshot victims and eight deaths.
I think the important point is with children, since they don't have the same body mass as an adult; and we're seeing children being struck at close range in classrooms. A simple gunshot wound can to significant damage and damage multiple organ systems in the body. It doesn't take a multiple gunshot to kill a child. It can be a single injury from a single bullet.
Simply, in answer to your question, I don't have demographics regarding -- children dying from assault weapons versus --.
THE PRESIDENT: Barbara Schwaegerman is a trauma nurse at Cook County Hospital, who works in an emergency room and cares for hundreds of victims of violence every year. Would you like to make a few comments about your experience and what you --
MS. SCHWAEGERMAN: Well, Mr. President, I'd like to say that the accessibility and the availability of these semiautomatic and automatic weapons has caused a great deal of problem in our unit. In the last 10 years we have seen a 350 percent increase in deaths from multiple gunshot wounds. I've been there for 14 years. When I started we would see single gunshot wounds. Now it's very common to see multiple gunshot wounds with the semi-automatic weapons. And yes, our mortality has increased; the patients' stay has increased; and everybody loses here. Even if you haven't suffered personal loss, we all pay for this. Whether it's a personal loss or whether it's paying for their hospital stay, their rehabilitation, their disability.
Just for instance, I'm also concerned about that we have a generation here that's coping mechanisms are just not there. And I just want to give you a for instance. Last week, I took care of a 24-year-old gentleman who came in with a gunshot wound to his head. The story was that he was watching TV at his parents' house, and he had an argument with his brother over the channel that they were watching on television. And rather than
communicate and work out a settlement together, the younger brother went in and got a gun and shot him fatally in the head.
It was very difficult to tell the wife that her husband was dead over a television channel. They have three children. What she did was grab me by the arms and say, "How am I going to tell my three children he's dead?"
We have to do something about the accessibility of these guns. Because people find it easier to grab a handgun and solve their problems that way, then to sit down and communicate and solve their problems that way.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
Perhaps the most important person sitting around this table today on this subject is Carol Ridley, who is an anticrime activist because her 22-year-old son was killed by gunfire in 1992. She is an active member of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence and the Coalition to Stop Handgun Violence.
MRS. RIDLEY: Thank you, Mr. President. I'd like to agree with Barbara. We have to do something to channel the energy of the young people. My son was murdered by a friend of his, also. These two boys had grown up together since age of 12. They've had many arguments, but due now to the easy accessibility of guns and this young gentleman wanting an instant answer, or something instant to resolve the situation or the argument, he killed my son. And to make matters worse, at the time of sentencing, Mr. President, the young man told the judge, "You know, I dream constantly about Pool." That's what we called my son. "Because he was my best friend and I miss him totally. I didn't mean to do it, but because guns is an instant answer and you want to resolve a situation, you do this."
What we need to do to help our children is to channel their energies elsewhere. Start preventive measures like playgrounds and social activities to have something to do after school that's structured and supervised. We don't need to leave our kids open on the streets like it has been because that's what happens. They walk on the street and they get shot because there are guns on the street.
I'd like to comment also on the fear that's going through our children's minds. They hear constantly about gunshot victims. They also know people that's in their family that are victims. They've seen their friends murdered. So they have a constant fear that they live in. They can't concentrate on education because it takes all of their energies for survival. We have got to do something about this gun problem; because we are arming ourselves in America more and more, but the crime isn't going down. So guns is not that answer.
THE PRESIDENT: One of the things that -- first of all let me thank you for being here, and thank you for having the courage to keep fighting this.
One of the things that I have seen some success with around the country that unfortunately is just being done kind of on a case by case basis with no consistency, is an effort in our schools to literally teach young people who may not learn it at home or in other community settings, how to resolve their differences; to really try to work through and force kids to come to grips with their aggressions, their angers, and how they deal with this.
I don't know how many encounters I've had in the last three years with people talking about shooting occurring in schools that mostly are just impulse things. And it's something I think maybe we ought to give some thought to and make sure in
the crime bill that comes out that some of this money for alternatives includes the ability -- these things aren't very expensive to have these courses in the schools where these kids are actually taught how people, sensible people, resolve their differences, because I think it's a real problem.
??: Mr. President, we have such a statute here in the State of Illinois. It's not funded, however. And so I think you're correct that conflict resolution is a very important thing to be addressing to our young people.
More importantly I think there is this pall, or this despair over most of the community. And I think it's an excellent opportunity for you, as the leader of this country, and I think you've taken the bull by the horns so far; and I think it's very, very important that people have some hope. And I think it's perhaps the worst thing we can do is just to have a feeling of despair -- that we have no control at all. I think that whatever effort we make, when you put these things together in a comprehensive fashion, they will make a difference; and I think we can turn this thing around -- and if I didn't, I wouldn't be in this job that I'm in. And I think that's important -- to convey hope to people.
THE PRESIDENT: Congressman.
CONGRESSMAN ROSTENKOWSKI: Mr. President, I think the city of Chicago has probably one of the most restrictive handgun ordinances in the country. There's no question about the fact it is a national problem. If you can go across the state border and buy weapons and bring them into the city of Chicago or into the county of Cook or into the state of Illinois, the problem is there. And what Matt said is absolutely right -- we need presidential leadership in this, and if you had not at your practical swearing-in ceremony said, I will sign the Brady Bill, I don't think that the initiative would have been there.
There are those of us that have been fighting over a long period time, recognizing that the availability of the violent weapon is more the impulse exhibition than anything else. And we've just got to be consistent about where we're going nationally with respect to the availability not of assault weapons, but weapons generally. And I think I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that t.v. violence is what basically the younger element in our society is exposed to. And unless we can get cooperation from the media to do something about the kind of movies or shows that they're playing, I just don't think that we're going to get our handle on it.
And finally, Mr. President, crime is community participation. The police officer, whether there's one or 20, is handcuffed if he hasn't got the interested citizen willing to call him and identify what the problem is and who created the problem. And I think what we've got to do is work on an educational program for the people in our community. The gangs are better organized than the parents are -- they know each other and the minute the young person is exposed to the gangs in the street, they take -- they almost take over the parenthood of the child.
On assault weapons, Mr. President, I've been supporting this before you were President because I honestly believe that we've got to view this on a national scale. But as Superintendent Rodriguez has pointed out, if there's somebody in the White House that wants to do something about this, people out there will react -- 435 members of Congress cannot do what the President of the United States can do.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't think there's any question that, as you said, this has been one of those issues where the people were ahead of those elected officials, or at
least elected officials as a whole. They've been out there for a long time wanting us to do something.
MAYOR DALEY: Well, I want to thank you, Mr. President -- regard to many years we've had a lot of talk about being tough on crime or try to understand the crime problem. But you as President, you have provided the leadership, not just -- speech, but I really understand the problem. You have talked about prevention, treatment and enforcement. And here this morning you have Superintendent Rodriguez and the five district commanders that deal with community policing. They know it works, as the Congressman pointed out. When you get the community involved -- once you get the community involved, you're going to have the police; you're going to reduce crime; you're going to have awareness programs. And that's what the community's all about.
That's why it's so important, the crime package that you have presented -- you have talked about to the American public that we need this passed immediately. At the same time, we understand the repercussions for the families and for the victims. It's a total problem for the community. And you talk about -- as the doctor pointed out and the nurse pointed out --it is -- the victim -- the death of a victim or the injury of victim. And then what happens to the victim when they're five years old or seven years old, as each year they get older and older.
And so I want to thank you and the Congressman for providing the leadership -- here in Chicago -- Congressman Rostenkowski -- but yourself, not just talking about this; you met with people; you signed the Brady Bill; Sarah and Jim Brady and what they went through; and educating the American public. I think that's what we're doing -- you're doing. You're really educating the American public. And I think we appreciate that.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
Anybody else want to say something? Would you stand up and just identify yourself.
DR. FANTUS: -- I'm a trauma surgeon at Illinois Masonic Medical Center on the North Side of Chicago. And I've been the Director of Trauma there for the past seven years. And I've seen the number of gunshot wound victims quadruple. And there's been a shift from single gunshot to multiple gunshot. And now we're up to about 35 percent of the gunshot victims we see have multiple gunshot wounds from either assault weapons or semiautomatic weapons.
And just this past Friday night I was on call. And when I got home Saturday morning, my six-year-old asked me, "Daddy, what did you do last night?" I had to tell him that I was there sewing the holes in a heart -- boy who was shot in the back multiple times in school. And I had to explain this to him. And this is a significant public health -- gunshot wound -- fighting a war. And I hope we can take care of this before I have to send him to school in a flak jacket.
DR. ADAMS: Stephen Adams from Northwestern Memorial Hospital. From a public health point of view, if bullet wounds were caused by an infectious disease, we would find people clamoring for an antibiotic cure for this epidemic. And I think that's what we need to do with this society -- find a cure for the infectious disease caused by bullets.
DR. ZARET: My name is Phil Zaret. I'm the Director of Trauma at Mount Sinai Hospital here in Chicago on the West Side. And I think that the thread that kind of connects all of these bullets and crime together is education, and the lack of
education. And I don't mean reading, writing and arithmetic, I mean in moral and ethical values. There's such a lack of it on the West Side of Chicago -- life is so cheap.
I think that the best way we can teach this type of education, this moral and ethical education, is by -- example. And thank you, Mr. President, for the wonderful example which you set. And thank God that you're here today to go the high school later, which you're going to be doing and set the very finest example for our people here in Chicago, for our young people. But we need more -- we need people going out and setting an example, a good example for the young people in Chicago. They just don't have it. It's the drug dealers; it's the pimps and pushers that are on the street that are their good example, and it's just not working out. We've got to set good role models for them.
DR. MELLER: My name is Janet Meller. I'm Director of Pediatric Surgery and Cook County Hospital.
I'd like to say that for the past seven years, the amount of penetrating injuries to children now accounts for onethird of our --. And we've seen that public awareness and legislation can have an impact on -- (inaudible). In fact, since the -- (inaudible) -- falling out of windows, have come into -- there has been a great decrease in the amount of falls.
And think that if you can expend some of -- energy to the issue of penetrating trauma we can decrease the -- start to work on the decreasing the penetrating trauma in children, which is really becoming significant this year in the pediatric population.
DR. SHAH: My name is Manoj Shah. I'm a Trauma Director at Lutheran General Hospital. (Inaudible) -- inner city kind of population; I'm in a suburban hospital. And even in a suburban hospital, we have seen an increase in --. Even though we are not seeing the injuries in assault -- gang-related kind of injuries, the kind of injuries we are seeing is self-inflicted or suicide kind of injuries. (Inaudible) -- talking about, we have seen an almost 60 percent increase in the number of victims that come to us for those reasons. And most of those people have an easy access to the weapon and use that to solve their problems.
DR. CHRISTOFFEL: I'm Katherine Christoffel. I represent Children's Memorial Hospital. We've seen a tenfold increase in the number of gunshot victims that -- in the last decade. I also represent the handgun -- (inaudible) -- or health network of concerned professionals. And we are working among organizations and individuals in the health field and related fields across the country to address this the way we would any epidemic. More children adolescents died from firearm injuries in 1991 than died from the polio epidemic, of all ages, at its peak. More than 10 times as many Americans died from firearms in 1991 as died from Polio at its peak.
The handgun is the main problem. Semi-automatic pistols kill far more people now than assault weapons. You have to prevent the assault weapons from killing more. I agree with banning them. But we've got to focus on the handgun as the main contagent in this horrible epidemic. And I hope that you will focus increasing energy on the handgun -- that one consumer product is killing our kids.
DR. MERLOTTI: Gary Merlotti, trauma surgeon from Christ Hospital. And I'd like to emphasize -- (inaudible) -- general impression throughout our city -- (inaudible) -- most gunshot wounds are drug- and gang-related. Better than 50 percent of our gunshot wounds -- we figure about 850 of them in 1993 -- were domestic violence. They are the solution to the argument -- it's too easy to pull a gun out.
I think what Congressman Rostenkowski pointed out, that part of it is a general desensitization of the population to the gunshot wound, or to the use of the handgun in that it's become an enabler, if you will. That is, it allows people to be more ready to pull a gun out -- (inaudible) --. I think that we really need to put pressure on t.v. to get violence out of the media in order to -- (inaudible) -- and get people back to considering that a gun may be something you want to do about and not use.
DR. LAZAR: Mr. President, I'm Richard Lazar from the Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital, and unlike some of these physicians, we take care of the survivors over the long term. I'm very sensitive to some of the issues that Mr. Rostenkowski brought up about sensitivity in the television. We're very concerned about that, as well. I mean, if we can ban cigarette advertisement from television, why should we allow the media to broadcast people killing one another left and right all the time as a matter of six or eight hours a day of television by our children?
We now have children in our hospital that are patients that are survivors of gunshot wounds, whose parents and grandparents were gunshot wound patients at our hospital. They already know what physical therapy is, they know all about it. They know all about wheelchairs, crutches, the whole shootin' match. So, I think that this is really a testimony to your leadership that you're willing to really examine our social fabric in this way, and try to make some very critical changes; and I applaud you for that.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Is Dr. John May here?
DR. MAY: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: You're the senior physician at the Cook County Jail, is that right?
DR. MAY: Correct.
THE PRESIDENT: I understand that you have done some violence prevention workshops with your people in the prison, in the jail. Would you talk a little about that?
DR. MAY: We have almost 10,000 detainees at the Cook County Jail and I'll go in and give presentations as a health issue like we do maybe about HIV or smoking and so on, but we talk about gunshot wounds. And I start by asking, how many in the crowd have ever been shot before? And almost a third will raise their hand. I ask, how many of you have ever seen someone shot? And almost everyone will raise their hand. And I've done this outside of the jail at the high schools, and more than half the kids in high school actually see someone on the street shot. So it's not just the violence on t.v. that we need to be concerned about, but the violence that is witnessed in real life. How does someone process that?
I had an 18-year old patient just last week who -- this was in the jail -- had been shot three times before: once when he was 15, once 16 and once 17. I thought to myself, is it any wonder he's here in the jail? And we need to recognize this not just as a criminal justice issue, so I thought we need to see this as a public health issue. If we can work on prevention, we can begin to reduce some of this -- help someone overcome the psychological burden of witnessing violence or experiencing violence. I think we can teach conflict resolution and that might have some success. And yet, despite all those desperate efforts, young people and adults will get into conflicts and will fight and if the handgun is there, unfortunately, that conflict becomes lethal. So we need national attention to get rid of the guns.
THE PRESIDENT: Is Reverend Roosevelt McGee here? Reverend McGee is the Executive Director of the Chicago Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. What are your observations about what you've heard today, and what can we do to prevent some of these things from happening in the first place? What can I do? What can the rest of us do?
REVEREND MCGEE: First, Mr. President, I would like to thank you and the Justice Department for your -- Initiative across the United States. Here in Chicago, -- (inaudible) -- Council Project. And you've allowed SCLC to come in in partnership with you on that. And it's an effort that you're punching and -- (inaudible) -- that you have targeted. And our program -- (inaudible). It enables us to get out in the community and build coalition with a lot of these individuals that are here, to address the issue as to what we can do. And we're going to hold a meeting tomorrow night to talk about these things. The medical community is coming together, community organizations -- and what we want to do is to build at the grass roots level a safety net to enable us to catch these people; to change their minds; change their attitudes; and then offer an alternative to gangs and drugs and to the life of crime; and to teach them about nonviolent conflict resolution.
It's been a great effort. We met January 17th, and communities are coming together -- organizations, social service organizations. Taking resources that we have, putting them together so that we can make a good safety net, sir, to offer alternatives and then change attitudes.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
DR. GEWERTZ: Bruce Gerwertz, Chairman of Surgery at the University of Chicago. And on behalf of our faculty and the faculty around the city, I just want to thank you again for your leadership.
I don't have to tell you that there are many conflicts and controversies in the organization of health care, but this is one in which every health professional, from physician to nurse, strongly supports this movement. And I just would like to echo what Dr. Shah said, is that there is no escaping this. This goes far beyond any socio and economic boundaries and profound for all of Americans. And your leadership on this is greatly appreciated.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. I guess this would be an appropriate time to make an observation that all the medical professionals here will immediately identify with. You know, one of the big debates we're having in Washington over the health care plan now is that Americans spend about 14.5 percent of our total income on health care. The next most health care expensive country is Canada where they spend ten percent; Germany and Japan are slightly under 9 percent of their income, even though their health outcomes, their indicators, are as good or better than ours in almost every major area. And they cover everybody, unlike the United States, which doesn't cover everybody.
And in the health care debate, we're examining how much that is due to the way we finance health care; how much of that is due to the enormous administrative burden on hospitals and doctors clinics and in insurance offices. But if we're going to be perfectly candid, we have to admit that some of the difference is what you all deal with every day. As long as we have more people who are cut up and shot and victims of violence, we're going to have a more expensive health care system than our competitors. And it has enormous economic consequences for the country. The human consequences are by far the most important, I don't want to minimize them. But I think it's important that we acknowledge here that no matter how successful Chairman Rostenkowski and I might be working on this health care thing when we go back, and even if we can get everybody in the world to
agree on it -- which seems somewhat less than likely (laughter) - - we will still have a system that costs more than all our major competitors as long as we are a more violent society than all our major competitors because no matter how you cut it, you will have to be there doing what you do and that's expensive.
I want to call on just a couple of other people. First, one of your officers. Is Officer Charles Ramsey here?
OFFICER RAMSEY: Here, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Could you say a little bit about -- Officer Ramsey heads up -- he's the deputy chief of police and he's the head of the community policing program here.
Could you say a little bit about what you think is the potential of the community policing program to actually reduce the crime rate and help maybe to begin to change patterns of behavior that we're talking about today?
OFFICER RAMSEY: Well, sir, I think in the long term it will have a definite impact on crime in Chicago -- working together along with the community, trying to identify the causes of crime, trying to take a more holistic approach to law enforcement. What we've learned is that simply locking people up is not the solution -- it doesn't really help us in the long term. We can talk about our statistics going down, but chances are in a year or two, they'll go up. We have to start taking a more holistic approach; we have to get involved with health care professionals. Up until now, our relationship with health care professionals has been basically to drop off gunshot wound victims, make a report, hit the street and wait for the next one to come in. We need to start communicating and talking about prevention now.
I thought that Congressman Rostenkowski's comments about the media were very, very appropriate. We have to look at the real causes of crime. We deal with the aftermath of crime as police and, basically, as health care professionals. But what's causing it? I have a seven-year old son and Saturday morning he's watching cartoons and I felt relatively good about that because I mean, what harm could there be watching cartoons; until I sat and watched the cartoon. They are incredibly violent --far more violent than some of the things you see during prime time programming. We are not sensitive to violence anymore in this country. People dying -- when you watch a news broadcast, if there's not enough violence in Chicago, they'll show you a murder that occurred in Buffalo, New York. I mean, what has that got to do with what's going on here in Chicago? But it's this thirst for violence that is really fueling, in my opinion, this whole outbreak of violence in our society. And we have to make some very hard choices.
Representatives from the entertainment industry ought to be right here, right now. They've got to be held accountable as well as everybody else, because unless we work together -- police, health care professionals, media, everybody -- then we're not going to solve this problem and we'll be back here in this room talking about the same issue.
THE PRESIDENT: Is Gina Benavides here?
Gina was in her car with a girlfriend when she was the victim of random gunfire. And since that time, she's spoken out publicly against gun violence, and I thought I would give her a chance to say something here today.
MS. BENAVIDES: Well, I agree with Mayor Daley about --(inaudible)-- is the teachers and police officers in the community. If this police officer can teach --(inaudible)-- in another area, in another suburb. They're not so involved with
their own people because their neighbors are the ones that -- (inaudible)--.
THE PRESIDENT: It's a very interesting thing -- several weeks ago in Washington, D. C., there was a national meeting on violence in which Jesse Jackson and a number of other people were involved. And one of the principle ideas that came out of that, interestingly enough, was that local and state governments should consider giving special tax incentives or lowcost mortgages or something else to encourage police officers and teachers to actually live in the communities in which they work.
That's very perceptive that you would say that.
Steven Estrada, are you here? Steven was a former mid-level management professional who was shot in the back and robbed for $9, and I appreciate your coming here and I was wondering if you'd like to say anything?
MR. ESTRADA: It's kind of hard to talk about sometimes, so I don't know what to say. --(inaudible)-- when you're in a situation like that, you don't know what the answer is. All I know is that I've got to move on. I can't sit here and feel sorry for myself. I've got to move on and pick up and go on. And so, I don't know, Mr. President, I'm not an expert in handguns like all these other people here today--(inaudible)--. All I know is one thing -- that I do have a family. I have two younger brothers that I almost lost them, and I'm just grateful to be alive and to be here. So, I'm just going to move on.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Yes sir, Chief.
OFFICER RODRIGUEZ: Steve is walking with a cane. He hasn't been employed -- this is how long the victimization goes on -- he hasn't been employed for well over a year and a half since this occurred; he lost his job. We talked a little earlier about the National Service Corps as an alternative, but we're looking to see if we can help him.
But the victimization is not just at the moment of the gunshot. It is a long, long, healing process for many victims. I might add, Mr. President, you heard so much about the random use of firearms, handguns beginning with Chairman Rostenkowski bringing it up. The Children's Defense Fund, which indicated that 50,000 children were killed by handguns since 1979; also indicated that about half of those -- half that number were killed as a result of suicide or accidental shootings. I think that we emphasize all that was said -- (inaudible).
THE PRESIDENT: Anything else? Anyone else want to be heard?
Tell us your name.
MR. WALLER: -- I'm a gunshot victim. Everyone's always talking about banning assault weapons. But what I think is -- (inaudible) -- assault weapons is that what they're used for is assaulting somebody. So instead of always talking about just banning assault weapons or semi-automatic weapons, why can't we just start -- just ban everything -- (inaudible). -- stiff penalties, go to jail -- (inaudible). -- his friend tells him, my brother just went to jail; well, what did he get caught with? A gun. Well, how long's he going to be in jail? A certain length -- amount of time, a real long time -- it's in a kid's mind that if I get caught with a gun, I'm going to be in jail -- it's going to be a stiff penalty for it; but not just start with assault guns -- all guns. If all -- got shot with a revolver, it's not automatic, but I would have still been in the same situation. You know what I mean?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, sir. Thank you, young man.
MR. WATSON: Commander Ronnie Watson from the -- district. Conflict resolution is needed. We've got to have -- not only for the children but for the parents. We find out -- parents -- (inaudible) -- a lot of our children's problems. I agree with the congressman about media and tv. But we're leaving out video games -- the most violent contact children have is with video games. That's where they learn how to shoot is through video games. They get instant gratification from the points -- 5,000 points every time I kill somebody. And this thing -- this whole thing, even though my homicides went down in my community, the level of violence is still at the same point because people still have that violent -- that prone for violence.
I agree with the lady here when she said we have to have other programs. We've got to have constructive programs. Until we got our community involved in -- our crime led the city every year. Once the families got involved because these are their children that we're losing, our drive-by shootings went down 70 percent, and we went 66 days without a homicide.
So once we get the community into what we're doing, I think that's --. We've got to have those programs. Either we're going to treat them after or we're going to treat them before --.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
MAYOR DALEY: -- a lot of things I found out --crime lab a couple weeks ago -- there's a gun manufactured in Tennessee, it looked like handgun, it was about that big, that fired a shotgun shell, was manufactured in Tennessee. It's basically going to be sold to drug dealers, gang bangers, anybody who wants it. THe thing that has surprised me after we talked about this kind of weapon they're seeing on the streets is that how many guns are manufactured overseas. But the people in those countries can't buy it. Only America can buy it. It's like -- only America can buy drugs -- we can only buy guns that are manufactured in foreign countries for their sale -- here. They can't sell them in Europe. They can't sell them in Russia to their own citizens, but they can sell them here in this country. We're becoming the dumping ground for drugs and weapons. And when you put the two of them together, you'll see how violence, that it keeps increasing.
What everyone has pointed out, you're the educator, and that's who you're educating the American public about this. You're giving the facts. You're really telling them the truth about it -- not afraid, not ashamed to do it. And you listen to everyone. That's the thing that I think we appreciate in Chicago.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Let's take one more and then I think we better wrap up. Then Congressman, we'll hear from you at the end.
DR. ZUN: I'm Leslie Zun, Chairman of Emergency Medicine at Mount Sinai. Mount Sinai, Mr. President, is one of the -- is the hospital in one of the poorest communities, and most violent communities in Chicago. On a typical Friday or Saturday night, we have dozens of victims from violence. Not only that, but a number of these patients that come in that are victims of violence, have been victims on multiple occasions. We take care of teenagers and young adults who have been shot once that come again and have been shot again. The cost to our society is tremendous. I applaud your initiative, and Mount Sinai applauds your initiative in health care reform.
We spend thousands of dollars on our trauma patients. They are some of our sickest patients and our most
costly patients. We need to protect our communities and our children.
THE PRESIDENT: We also need to remember that every one of these hospitals with a big trauma bill also treats lots of other patients for lots of other things and it imposes an enormous financial burdens on the hospitals, which is another thing that -- one reason this health care reform thing is so important to big city hospitals with large trauma units is that it will help to even out the flow of payments so you will be able to continue to treat these other folks and not risk bankruptcy, which I think is very important. A lot of people have overlooked that connection -- that all these other people that are going to these hospitals.
Mr. Chairman, you want to wrap up?
CONGRESSMAN ROSTENKOWSKI: Yes, Mr. President. I think that this has been most rewarding. And it's really the center of attention because you're sitting there. And I applaud you for that.
But I'd like to make one or two observations. Trauma centers in the city of Chicago have been closing. I don't know if there are more than six now in the city of Chicago when five years ago there must have been 25 or 30. Why is that happening? Because we don't have a health reform policy and that's important. We've got to work on that; on health care reform.
What that young lady said back there -- I lived in a community that was -- (inaudible) --. It went through transition areas. When teachers lived there they were concerned with the school across the street, and they were educating those children in that school. When policemen lived there, they were concerned with somebody drag racing down the street because their children were playing in those streets. What that young lady said is absolutely a fact, and I don't know whether we can get a tax incentive to do it, or whether we should start restricting people. I know that that it's a constitutional infraction if you make the policemen live in the city of Chicago. But when you have the leaders in the community living in the community, their children living there, it's amazing how easily you can organize that community to make it function and be vital.
I agree with both these police officers. The media ought to be here as well, because they have a responsibility with which -- with what they're displayed in my home, with children and your children.
I think that -- I applaud you because you're not afraid to take it -- and this is a tough one. Thank you very much, Mr. President --
THE PRESIDENT: It is a tough one, but I want to thank you, Carol, and thank you, Barbara, and thank you, Mindy Statter, and thank you Chief Rodriguez, and that all of you for the work you do everyday. And I particularly want to thank those of you who have been victimized in some way or another for having the courage to come up here and do this and to continue your interest in this.
I think the American people are ready to move on this. I believe they are. And I think maybe the rest -- those of us who can help are getting the message. And your presence here today will certainly help --.
Thank you very much. We're adjourned. (Applause.)
END10:41 A.M. EST