THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AND OTHER SPEAKERS AT CRIME BILL EVENT
Department of Justice Washington, D.C.
10:50 A.M. EDT
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: Mr. President, I welcome you, Secretary Bentsen and Director Brown, and all of you here to the Department of Justice. We are joined, too, by a number of representatives from the Congressional Conference Committee. You will be meeting them as we go along, but I want to make sure that everybody understands what a remarkable job they have been doing for the citizens of America.
We have here today many distinguished representatives of American law enforcement, including Portland's committed and very dedicated Chief Charles Moose. All of us here today share a common goal, to pass the President's crime bill and end the scourge of crime in America now.
I would like to take a moment to recognize some of the distinguished guests who have joined us here today. There are here today representatives of all the federal law enforcement agencies, indicating the spirit of cooperation that has existed between departments, between agencies. And I am so proud that we are here today together, united in trying to get a crime bill passed that can make a difference for America and make a difference for all the people of America.
But as importantly, or more importantly, I would like to recognize the representatives of the people who are on the front lines, the people who represent state and local law enforcement throughout America: Vic Oboyski, President of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association; Dan Rosenblatt, Executive Director of the International Association of Chiefs of Police; Neal Behan, former chief of the Baltimore County Police Department, representing the major city chiefs; Bud Meeks, Executive Director of the National Sheriffs Association; Bob Scully, Executive Director of the National Association of Police Organizations; Ira Harris, Executive Director of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives; Sam Cabral, Secretary Treasurer of the International Union of Police Associations; Dewey Stokes, President of the Fraternal Order of Police; Chris Sullivan, Legislative Director of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers; Alfred Dean, representing the Police Foundation; First Sergeant John Zeigler of the Maryland State Troopers, representing the National Troopers Coalition; Chuck Wexler, Executive Director of the Police Executive Research Forum.
This indicates how America's law enforcement has been united to get a crime bill passed that can make a significant difference. And we are indebted to you for you extraordinary efforts both here and in your communities that you put your life on the line day in and day out. (Applause.)
Mr. President, Congress is on the verge of sending to you probably the most important crime-fighting legislation in a generation -- legislation that is so critical to this nation. And we owe so much to Chairman Biden, Chairman Brooks, Congressman Schumer, Senator Metzenbaum -- so many other people, but especially the conferees who have worked so hard in these last two days to try to develop legislation that America can really be proud of.
I know how important this legislation is because I have had the opportunity to travel across this nation to talk to victims and to survivors, to see and hear what crime does to people -- not what the numbers are, but what it is in human terms, in terms of tragic loss. I have talked to citizens who have the courage and commitment to go out into their community and to work together to build a community that can provide a safe and positive future for our children.
I have talked to the children of America who want so much for there to be programs that can make a difference in their lives. I've talked to mayors, chiefs, sheriffs, cops on the beat who want so much to have the resources to make a difference in their community, because they care so much and they are so dedicated.
What America wants is not talk, but a crime bill now -- not a crime bill in form, but a crime bill in real substance; one that provides for community policing, one that locks up the bad guy and keeps him locked up, one that provides youth something to say yes to so that they can say no to the gangs and drugs and violence.
This is a problem not of numbers. It is a problem of people. And when you understand it in human terms, when you look out on this room and think that probably everybody in this room has been touched by crime either by themselves or through a family member, a neighbor, a fellow worker, you understand the dimensions. When you talk to the parents of a young person slain in her room and home; when you talk to a police officer whose partner has been gunned down by assault weapons; when you talk to children whose lives are turned topsy-turvy because they're afraid to walk out of their home; when you go to a church within the sight of this capital where they have buried three young people in one week you understand the human dimensions of crime.
That is the reason it is so important that we get this crime bill passed -- a bill that is balanced, that's thoughtful, that has the substance to back up the promises for 100,000 community police officers on the streets of America where they count, for a ban on assault weapons, for a three strikes and you're out provision that puts the bad guys away and keeps them away; a bill that will provide states the opportunity to house dangerous offenders for longer periods of time so that we can start to make sure they remain in prison; that we keep our schools open and give our children something to say yes to in a positive and strong future.
We're close to ending six years of talk, and we're at the verge -- on the verge of making a difference for America. It's time for us to move on and get this bill passed as soon as possible.
One of the people most instrumental in working with us in the Department of Justice, working with everyone concerned in this whole effort, and a person I'm proud to work with -- I'd like to introduce Dr. Lee Brown. (Applause.)
DR. BROWN. Thank you, Attorney General Reno. Mr. President, I'm very proud to be with you today and see so many of my colleagues and friends in law enforcement.
And to those of you in law enforcement I don't have to tell you, any of you -- you're in the front line of this battle against crime -- that for too long there's been too much real empty talk in Washington about crime and too many trickle-down crime bills that haven't given you the resources you need to do your job. For more than five years now the American people have been waiting for a serious proposal to combat crime and drugs and violence. And the Clinton-Biden-Brooks crime bill is exactly what we've been waiting for.
Finally, an end to a hollow debate over which is better: prevention or punishment, tough or smart. I remember hearing that stale argument when I was President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, when I was the Police Commissioner in New York City or the Police Chief in Houston, Texas, or Public Safety Commissioner of Atlanta, Georgia, or the Sheriff in Portland, Oregon. We knew better then, as did President Clinton, that the answer lies in a balanced response -- what I call the three-Ps: police, prevention and punishment.
This bill provides more than we ever dreamed for community policing -- nearly $9 billion, 100,000 more police officers on the streets of our cities working with our communities to build trust and stop crime. We know community policing works. It worked in Houston. It worked for me in New York City, and it's working in numerous cities across this country. The bill also gives equal billing to prevention. Those of us in law enforcement have witnessed an explosion of crime and violence and drug use among our nation's youth. And this country can't continue to ignore this problem.
We've got to help our kids stay in school, off drugs and out of trouble. Smarter kids with clearer minds and stronger families is the sure way to make our streets safer. And this bill also meets head on the clear and devastating link between drugs and crime. Just ask the hardcore drug user if they have recently engaged in some other kind of illegal activity and most will say, definitely, yes. That's why this bill contains drug court programs to make sure that crime-committing addicts change their ways before they go on to commit more serious crimes, as well as other effective drug control programs, including treatment for those that you have arrested and put in our jails and prisons across this country.
And so, my friends, I'm delighted to see you here today. And now we must get the crime bill passed so the President can sign it. No more waiting. And we can move on to the hard work of making a difference for the American people.
Now, it's my pleasure to introduce a person I sort of enjoy working with. I enjoyed working with him when he was a Senator from Texas and even more so now that we both are serving with the President. So let me present to you the Secretary of Treasury, the honorable Lloyd Bentsen. (Applause.)
SECRETARY BENTSEN: Thank you, Dr. Brown. What a great day for the law-abiding citizens of the United States. (Applause.) Mr. President, for four years I watched Jack Brooks and Joe Biden work diligently on a crime bill. And then I've seen your support and your leadership added to it -- the Clinton, Brooks and Biden crime bill. And to work with Janet Reno and her contribution to that effort. You're going to have a good bill and you're going to have it on your desk and you're going to have it soon. (Applause.)
I get a little angry sometimes as I watch television and you get to thinking that this country of ours is made up of rapists and stalkers and drug addicts and crooks. This bill starts with the premise that Americans are good and decent people. Sure, we have some bad apples amongst us; you bet we do. And all the money in the world won't totally stop them. And I never met a law enforcement official, officer, who didn't need more money and more manpower. And, unfortunately, they do. This is a good bill because we're spending the money in an appropriate balance between law enforcement and prevention.
This is going to help many a Treasury enforcement program by cutting down on the violence in public housing, or cutting down on credit card fraud and tax fraud. It contains an assault weapons ban. It includes provisions that will make it possible to do a better background check on federally licensed gun dealers. It contains a ban on the transfer of handguns to juveniles and suspected stalkers. And on prevention, I look at the ATF's great program where we help instruct local law enforcement agents to teach kids to stay out of gangs or to get themselves out of gangs. And I can't tell you how many thousands of kids have walked away from gangs because of that program. And we're to have money now over the next six years to expand it.
One last thing I want to say. I like this bill because there's a partnership here between state and local officials and federal officials. Treasury sure can't fight this crime alone and certainly the Attorney General's department, the Justice Department, can't do it alone either. Criminals have too many weapons. But we can do it working together, and that's how we're going to make America a safer place for good and decent people.
Now, I want to introduce the Chairman el supremo -- (laughter and applause) -- friend of a lifetime, my great friend Jack Brooks.
CONGRESSMAN BROOKS: Mr. President, Attorney General Reno. I'm here to say something nice about Joe Biden, just another spear-bearer in this operation. (Laughter.) You all understand. You all stand up. I get to stand up and just talk very briefly and then shut up and sit down and clap. Got the word. That's the way it goes.
Joe Biden is best known as the husband of Joan Biden, his wife, who's lovely. He is Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He's a dedicated Democrat. He worked for the Democratic Party. He believes in its principles. He speaks for them. He worked tirelessly day and night to put this package together, day and night.
You can't imagine how squirrelly these people get late at night, gentlemen and ladies. (Laughter.) He's calling senators and getting them up last night 1:30 a.m. in the morning, 2:00 a.m. One, he couldn't get one at 2:30 a.m. I don't know why. He must have taken his phone off the hook. (Laughter.) At any rate, he worked day and night, and it kind of reminded me of the midnight benediction at the "Y'all Come Back Saloon." (Applause.)
But anyhow, this legislation is good legislation. It's strong, going to put violent criminals in the clink where they belong. It's going to have a lot of innovative operations in it that give us a chance to save people, so we don't have to put them in jail. I would just say that Joe Biden put all that together, worked with us. He's a wonderful friend. He's a man of tremendous courage, competence and dedication; our friend and yours, Chairman Joe Biden of Delaware. (Applause.)
SENATOR BIDEN: Thank you. This is probably the only occasion when I'll recognize someone before the President when the President's on the stage -- Your Holiness -- (laughter.) Mr. President, General, Secretary.
Mr. President, I've heard from the beginning from our friends on the right and from our Republican friends about this liberal President -- (laughter) -- who is not tough on crime. I want the record to show -- and I look at a lot of these police officers out here who helped me and Jack write this bill five years ago, the actual language you sat down with me and negotiated and wrote -- they know what I'm about to tell the rest of you.
The first time I've been awakened in the middle of the night -- I consider 12:00 a.m. the middle of the night -- by a President of the United States was in December of 1992, by the President-Elect Bill Clinton. The phone rang. He was on the line and said, "Joe, not too late, is it?" By the way, when the hell do you sleep? (Laughter.) "Not too late, is it?" And I said, "Of course not, Mr. President." My wife thought I was having delusions, having dropped out myself, thought I thought I was back in. (Laughter.)
This is a true story, this is absolutely a true story. (Laughter.) He said, "Joe, when in God's name are you going to introduce your crime bill?" I said, "Mr. President, we're not even in session yet." He said, "I know that. You're going to introduce it right away."
I can say without exaggeration, on six occasions before he was sworn in -- and to be precise -- before the Senate met after he was sworn in, the President began to push on when are you going to introduce the crime bill.
Everybody should make no mistake about this. Jack Brooks and I and Lloyd Bentsen when he was Senator Bentsen, and others tried to pass a crime bill for five years. It was blocked for five years. The reason there is a crime bill is this fellow here, the President of the United States of America, put the full faith and credit -- (applause.) And for all those of you in the press who wonder about this, when there was talk about having less than 100,000 cops, I got a call saying, no bill unless 100,000 cops.
When there was talk among my group that we put less money in for prisons, I got a call -- no bill unless there's more money for prisons. He strongly supported all of the prevention programs, but I want to tell you something. This is a President who, quite frankly, Mr. President, you're more conservative than I am on the enforcement side of this legislation. And the reason we have it done is because he made it real clear: unless you all get all of what you need -- and by the way, these are real dollars. This isn't make-believe money. This isn't funny money. This comes from this man cutting the federal work force over the next six years by over 235,000 persons, and giving the money from bureaucrats to cops. That's why this bill is real money. (Applause.)
I've had the total support of every one of the police organizations in this place since I've been a Senator. You've been the most loyal people I've worked with. I told you four years ago -- and Bob Scully's the only guy that listened to me right off the bat -- I told you this guy is the best friend the cops are ever going to have and ever have had. And he is the best friend the American police have ever had as President of the United States of America. And you're going to see it soon. (Applause.)
Let me conclude, Mr. President, by thanking you for one other thing. I really have had a tutorial the last six months working with Jack Brooks. And I know I joke about it and kid about it, but I have had a tutorial in how to get things done. This man is the guy who shepherded through this legislation, and the unholy alliance of this man and the other man who saved the bill last night at 2:00 a.m. in the morning, Howard Metzenbaum -- Howard Metzenbaum saved this bill. (Applause.)
And if I can conclude with, as we say in the Senate, a point of personal privilege, Mr. President. I have never worked harder, I have never been more emotionally committed, I have never been more desirous of an outcome than I have been on one aspect of this legislation the last President refused to support, a lot of people on liberal and conservative sides didn't want to support but you backed me up -- and that is the violence against women legislation.
We have done something historic in this bill. Not only have we put $1.8 billion to help American women who are the victim of violence in this country, we have created -- and this is the only man who backed me up on it at a White House level ever -- we created a civil cause of action to empower women who are abused by their socalled live-in spouses or lovers, so that it's no longer just the judgment of an attorney general in our states as to whether or not they prosecute. Women can now say I've decided -- whether or not the states decided -- I've decided I'm going to take you to federal court, and for what you did to me, I'm going to take your house, your car, your bank account and everything that makes a difference here. (Applause.)
Mr. President, thanks for having the courage to take on everybody on that issue. Your support for that provision means more to me than anything that has happened in what I've worked on in 22 years. I thank you. And, again, Mr. President, congratulations. I am very proud to be associated with a bill that has Clinton's name on it and Brooks's name on it. How could that be bad? Congratulations, Mr. President. (Applause.)
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: I would also like to recognize Congressman Bill Hughes who has just come in who has been a very valiant member of the Conference Committee. (Applause.) I don't think we specifically recognized either Congressman Charles Schumer, who has been at this from the very beginning. Congressman Schumer. (Applause.)
One of the most remarkable people I have met in these last 16 months is the Chief of Police of Portland, Oregon -- a man who cares about policing, cares that it be done right, cares about his community and cares enough to be involved. I walked the streets of his neighborhood. He and his wife chose to live in a high-crime neighborhood so that people would know he understood what crime meant and what communities could do to come together to address the problem. He understands how important it is to bring community leaders together in neighborhoods with businesspeople working with citizens to make a difference with police. He is an extraordinary example of policing in America, policing at its best. And I take great pride in presenting to you Chief Charles Moose of Portland, Oregon. (Applause.)
CHIEF MOOSE: Thank you. Mr. President, Attorney General Reno, other distinguished guests, specifically to all the police officers in the audience: It is certainly a pleasure to be able to join you at such a distinguished time, such a proud time for this country. Chairman Biden, Chairman Brooks, Mr. President, the police officers of America want to say thank you for all your work. We want to say thank you for the tremendous effort you've put into this so far. The people in our communities need the help that you're about to send our way.
For the most part it takes us anywhere from 25 to 50 years before we can increase the size of our force by 20 percent. We need to have that kind of visible increase on the streets. We need to be able to target the areas of our communities that need help. We need for the police officers to have time to work with people to help them solve problems. This bill and the community policing that it mandates will allow us to make a difference for the people in our local community.
The prevention, the drug court, the Gray Program, the Local Partnership Act will allow us to close that gap between what occurs in school and in the families prior to them coming into the criminal justice system. Up till now there's been an area where people fall through the gap. This crime bill will close that gap. This crime bill will allow us to do some prevention.
I've met a lot of victims in my career, but I've never met a victim, no matter how quickly we make an arrest, no matter how many years a person is sent to jail, I've never met a victim that wouldn't prefer that the crime had not occurred as opposed to us punishing someone. (Applause.) The additional ban on assault weapons, the fact that we're going to get support for the states in jails, all of those things are going to make a difference to the people that live in our local communities. Taking these weapons off the street is not a joke. Police officers face them every day. We need relief and I think this crime bill will provide that.
This crime bill will provide the tools that we need to actually do our job, tools that have been long overdue. This bill will provide police officers, jails, boot camps, education, training, deployment overtime, prosecutors, grants, a mandate for community policing. This bill will help us solve problems in our local communities. This bill will allow us to target drugs, violence by youth, violence against women, violence by career criminals. This bill is tough. This bill is smart. This will allow Americans and police officers to start to operate from a position of strength. Our local neighborhoods need this help and we appreciate all the efforts that have been made to date.
It's not very often that you get an opportunity to introduce the President of the United States. When I was thinking about what do you say before you do that, it wasn't real clear. (Laughter.) But I will say that it's not -- been an occasion where we've had a President that actually understands that in order to solve problems, in order to reduce crime in America, you have to take a holistic approach; that you need to bring a lot of different things to the table; that public safety is more than law enforcement; that public safety is education; that public safety is jobs; that public safety is people caring about other people. The President of the United States understands that. And as a police officer it brings me great honor to bring to you, ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Chief Moose, for the introduction and for your lifetime of service to your community and for the wisdom of your words and your leadership. Thank you, Attorney General Reno, for the magnificent work that you and the others here at the Justice Department have done on the Crime Bill. Thank you, Lee Brown, for the work you did to make sure that we had enough funds in the Crime Bill for drug prevention and drug education programs and drug treatment programs.
Thank you, Secretary Bentsen, for the law enforcement work you do and the comments you made today. And I want to thank all of the members of Congress who are here. I thank Senator Metzenbaum for letting Joe Biden get even with me by calling you in the middle of the night. (Laughter.) I thank you, Congressman Hughes. I thank you, Congress Schumer, for on occasion being like a mad dog in dealing with these issues. I think you will be proud into a deep, old age for the work you have done on this crime bill, and I thank you, sir.
And I cannot say enough about Chairman Brooks and Senator Biden. I like them both very much, and it's not hard to figure out why when you hear them up here talking. I ran completely out of my stash of donated cigars trying to get Jack Brooks to keep pushing ahead with every aspect of the Crime Bill. (Laughter.) People always want to know, you know, what did the President give away to get this, that, or the other thing. All I gave away were mountains of crocodile tears and donated cigars -- (laughter) -- because Jack Brooks wanted this country to have a crime bill.
Joe Biden, I think you could see by the visible way that he is moved by this, how important it is to him. And I am profoundly grateful to him for that, and for what he said today. It is true that I called him at midnight, and that Joe asked him the next day if he remembered what the phone call was about. I wish I had asked him for a lot of other things, because I'm not sure he did. (Laughter.)
I could still make assertions about what we've talked about on that late night. And I thank all of you here who have worked on this bill -- all the representatives of law enforcement and others who care about having a safer America.
Because the conference was finished just before we started this event, this is truly an historic day. On the verge we are of a major victory for our country. It's been a remarkable week for America. I think all of us have joined in the elation we felt when Israel and Jordan's leaders came to this country and declared an end to their state of war and their intention to work together as friends, and took great pride in the role the United States played in bringing about that agreement.
And then, less noticed but also important, the President of Russia made an announcement that by the end of August, for the first time since the end of World War II, all Russian troops would be gone from Germany and Central and Eastern Europe, and I'm proud of the role the United States has played in that endeavor. But I can't help thinking today it would be even more important if we could bring peace to the streets and the children of the United States. (Applause.)
The Vice President patted me on the back earlier this week when we were just sort of swelled up with happiness over the progress of things with Prime Minister Rabin and King Hussein and said, you know, this is one of the reasons that you ran for President. But I can tell you, this is one of the reasons that I ran for President. (Applause.)
Almost 20 years ago now I started my career in public life as Attorney General of my state, being involved in the prosecution and the appeals of criminal cases, dealing with state police and defending them when we got sued over first one thing then another.
When I became governor, I found myself in charge of a large and growing prison system, an overtaxed but dedicated state police, with the responsibilities to do everything from trying to prevent crime to carrying out the death penalty. I have lived on a daily basis for most of my life in public service with law enforcement officials. I have been to the funerals and to the homes of people who have been killed in the line of duty, repeatedly.
I have done everything I could over all these years to learn what it is we could do together to make it easier for people in law enforcement to do their job, and most importantly to make it better for all of us to live in this country. Now, after nearly six years, congressional leaders and people in both parties have agreed on what will be the toughest, largest and smartest federal attack on crime in the history of the United States of America. (Applause.)
You know, it puts more police on the street and takes more guns off the street and takes more children off the street. It puts violent criminals behind bars and gives others the chance to avoid a life behind bars. Senator Biden and Chairman Brooks assure me this bill will be on my desk within days, and I assure you I will sign it into law without delay. (Applause.)
I want to ask you just for a moment, because most of what needs to be said about this bill has been said. But just for a moment, think about the meaning of this act today in terms of what all of you want for America. Even those of you in uniform, what you want as citizens -- as fathers and mothers and husbands and wives and children. And what you want for your children.
I got into this job I'm in because I was very worried that our country was going in the wrong direction, that our deficit was going up and our economy was going down, that we were increasing burdens on middle-class Americans and reducing investment in them and their children. And I was very worried that as we move toward the 21st century, after our nation won the Cold War, that we would not be able to keep the American Dream alive. And it was obvious to me that to do that, we would have to rebuild our economy and rebuild our sense of community and our families, and empower individuals to do a better job of taking responsibility for themselves.
We tried to do that with a new economic policy to reduce the deficit and to give us the smallest federal government in 30 years, and three years of deficit reduction in a row for the first time since Harry Truman was President, and to increase investment in people and in trade, and it's working. We've got 3.5 million new jobs and a big drop in the unemployment rate. But if you think about it, even though the economy is going in the right direction, can we really hope -- can we really hope to rebuild the economy, rebuild our sense of community, and empower individuals if we are frightened, if we are scared, if we are burdened by crime? If the highest rate of crime is now among people at their tenderest and most formative years, between the ages of 12 and 17 when we're trying to say, do this, do the right thing, you will be rewarded, you can have a good life, you can be a responsible parent, you can be a successful citizen?
Look at the cost of crime to the economy. Look at the cost of crime to our sense of community and to the idea that we are an American family. Look at the cost of crime to our efforts to empower every individual, including all these young people that are growing up in terribly difficult circumstances.
Remember just a few things that I have tried to tell the American people -- the nine-year-old boy in New Orleans who said I'm asking you nicely to do something about crime because I'm afraid I might be shot. And nine days after he sent me the letter, he was shot dead because he just happened to be in the wrong place.
The immigrant waiter in New York City who said he loved being in America, but he didn't like the fact that his son wasn't free because he couldn't go to school without his daddy walking him to school, and couldn't walk across the street and play in the park without somebody being there. And he asked me to make his son free.
All the other goals we seek for ourselves, in our families, for our children, in our workplaces, and for our great nation, depend at bottom on our being able to live together with certain clear assumptions that, even though we are very different, we are different by race, we are different by religion, we are different by politics, there are a few basic things that will always hold us together, beginning with the fundamental respect for law, order and our fellow human beings. And it is vanishing in too many places today. (Applause.)
Now, you have already heard this, but I have to say it again: For nearly six years this bill has been debated over and over again. Oh, the details have changed from time to time and when I was elected, I had some very specific ideas that I hoped would be in here, and you heard Senator Biden talk about his conviction about violence against women. And then in the eleventh hour a few more good things were added. But for six years, the Congress has been trying to fashion a response to crime.
Most of the time. the deliberation of Congress is a good thing, I suppose; but there are times in the history of a country when you just have to stop deliberating and act. And at a time like this when the world is changing so very fast, I think we really have to ask ourselves whether we can afford to take six years on a matter of this moment. Well, now it is done.
The most important thing about this crime bill, besides its specifics, which are very important, is what the Chief said. He used the word "holistic." If you're a chief of police you can use that; if you're a politician they tell you it looks kind of funny to say a word like that because aren't sure what it means. (Laughter.) And if you're president, they tell you not to say it because you should never use a word that anybody's confused about. But what it means is to go beyond old ways of thinking and false choices. Are we going to be tough or are we going to be compassionate? Are we going to go after criminals or are we going to go after guns? These debates have divided us for too long while children died.
And the real achievement of the Congress at this moment is that they are going beyond those old ways of thinking. They are reaching for a new consensus that reflects the world we are living in and that recognizes the absolutely horrendous conditions in which a lot of our younger people are living and the need to be very, very firm, but very, very smart about the road ahead, its difficulties and its challenges.
We had to argue with a lot of people to get this bill. We had to fight with the NRA over the assault weapons ban, but we guaranteed over 600 hunting and sporting weapons free from government interference. I would argue that both things were the right thing to do. We had almost unanimous consent, finally, for the idea that children should not be in the possession of handguns unless they are under the supervision of an appropriate adult.
We have a measure in here that we haven't talked much about to make our schools safer. If a child is not safe in school, how can the republic go forward when we need education as the basis for our future? We had to fight with some of the folks in our party who thought that our approach on punishment was a little too tough. Then we had to fight with some folks in the other party who thought our approach on rehabilitation and prevention was little too soft or too generous.
I want to say this: The prevention money in this bill is there for one reason -- and I want this on the public record now -- not because the President wanted it, although I did; not because the Attorney General wanted it, although she did; not because the Drug Director or the Chairman of the Senate Committee or the Chairman of the House Committee wanted it, although they did; the prevention money is in this bill because the law enforcement officials of the United States said, we cannot jail our way out of this crisis, we've got to give our kids something to say yes to and a future. You told us to put it in there, and that is why it is in there. (Applause.)
So we have had a lot of arguments -- but that is the essence of democracy -- and we have gone beyond these categories that kept this bill bottled up, fights over ideas, fights over interest, we put the people of this country first again, and we focused on what they needed. Now I say to you: Let's not forget that the bill is not law. It has been voted out of a conference committee. The House must vote a rule to permit it to come to the vote. Then the House and the Senate must pass it
It is urgent that we send the message out of this meeting that not only the law enforcement community, but the American people want a 20 percent increase in the police forces in this country, 100,000 police, that you want the tougher punishment, that you want the capacity for imprisonment, that you want the prevention funds, that you want the assault weapons ban, that you want the ban on teenagers owning guns, that you want the protection for women against violence, that you want the schools to be safer, that you believe it makes sense because it deals with the problem in a human, intelligent, and firm way. And it gives us a chance to come together again as a people. Let's go pass the bill.
Thank you, and God bless you all. (Applause.)
END11:41 A.M. EDT