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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release August 15, 1994
                           The Rose Garden

1:40 P.M. EDT

POLICE CHIEF STOKES: Ladies and gentleman, we are here to address the -- thank you, Mr. President. (Laughter.) You all are standing up. We are here today to discuss a very serious issue to law enforcement in the United States -- the crime bill.

The crime bill was drafted with the input of law enforcement, a law enforcement steering committee over six years ago. This is an important bill for law enforcement, and for the community, and for the Congress of the United States. They need to stand up, to speak out in unison with us, telling the criminal element, enough is enough.

The assault weapons ban must remain in this legislation. It's a nonnegotiable item. It's off the table as it is a concern to law enforcement and the deaths that we see on the streets today.

The President of the United States, President Clinton, has stood beside law enforcement initially saying that he'd ask for 100,000 law enforcement officers. And through negotiations and through the conference committee, he was successful in succeeding and increasing that from the 50,000 proposed to another 100,000 of which he had initially proposed to hire the law enforcement officers to enforce the laws throughout this country. More law enforcement officers on these streets will make a difference in the terms of fighting crime.

The constructions of prisons are important, and the prevention programs. It's a balanced way to fight crime, and that's what this crime bill is all about -- prevention of crime. We in law enforcement know that if we build prisons, we can fill those prisons. It's getting back to the grass roots in this country and dong something about the problem before it becomes a problem where we spend $22,000 a year housing criminals. It's prevention. The prevention programs in this bill are good. They've been tried and tested, and the President knows that they have succeeded in some areas of the country and will succeed throughout this country if we only give it a chance.

It's with pleasure today, though, I must move on and introduce to you Steve Sposato. Steve, would you step forward please? (Applause.)

MR. SPOSATO: Last year my wife, Jodie, was brutally killed by a gunman using two assault weapons in an office building in downtown San Francisco. Our daughter, Meghan, only got to know her mother for 10 months of her life. That's indeed a senseless tragedy.

The Republicans say that the crime bill has too much prevention and not enough punishment. Murders like this could have been prevented. The killer had no prior record. His first crime was his last crime, and then he killed himself. He left eight dead and six wounded.

In 1991, if Congress had passed an assault weapons ban, this terrible tragedy would have been prevented. What is being prevented now is that the Republican leadership, along with the National Rifle Association, is preventing the crime bill from reaching the floor of the House. I've been a Republican for 19 years, and frankly, I am totally disappointed in my party, especially the leadership of my party.

Bill Clinton is our President. I'm working with our President to make sure that the crime bill gets to the House floor for a vote and includes an assault weapon ban. With three-fourths of the entire country in support of an assault weapon ban, how could this type of legislation be blocked? If the American people want it, why can't they get it?

The fact is, this bill did not pass because of a procedural rule, which in itself is a crime. Americans deserve safer streets. I don't want to see any 10-month-old little girls putting dirt on their mother's grave.

The Republicans say the current crime bill is filled with pork. The biggest pork barrel in Washington is the NRA's war chest. The NRA wants one thing -- they want to preserve the billiondollar gun industry, and that's why they don't want an assault weapon ban to go forward.

The fact is the NRA doesn't give a damn that my wife, Jodie, is dead. The fact is the NRA doesn't give a damn that my daughter, Meghan, will grow up never knowing her mother. Meghan is growing up. Last week she asked me, "Daddy, I want to see mommy." This is the type of senseless punishment that is going on in America. I'd like to explain to Meghan that what happened to mommy won't happen to other mommies, not in this great country of ours.

It's not the crime bill that's being held hostage, it's the American people. I urge you to call your congressman and express your outrage. Pass the crime bill, stop this procedural nonsense. Every day our government waits means more people will day. Partisanship and the interest of the NRA should never come before the safety of ordinary people like you and me. For Jodie, Meghan and I, it's too late. Don't wait until it's too late for you.

And now it is my pleasure to introduce to you a person who has also endured some senseless punishment, Janice Payne. (Applause.)

MS. PAYNE: Hi, my name is Janice Payne. I'm from New Orleans, Louisiana. On April the 29th as a class project, my son James wrote a letter to the President asking him to stop the killing in the city.

He said, "I think that somebody might kill me. I'm asking you nicely to stop it. I know you could, so please do it. I know you could." Then, nine days later, my son's life was taken away -- May the 8th, Mother's Day.

My son never talked to me about how afraid he was of the violence in our city. Just like James, there are other innocent children out there who are afraid of the violence.

Maybe if everyone pulled together and they helped the President get the crime bill passed, we as a community could pull together and do something about the senseless killing of our children. Maybe the parents of innocent children that were murdered senselessly could get together and try to do something about the violence around us.

I'm not letting my son die in vain. There is a song that has been written, "In the Name of James," that should be released by mid-October. There are singers such as Jermaine Neville donating their time and talents towards "In the Name of James." In the song, one of the verses is, "We wish the world would change/In the name of James. No child should die this way/In the name of James. Don't take away our children, our childhood/Just because you're up to no good. Let the children play for goodness sake/ Don't take their dreams away/In the names of James."

My last note on the violence that surrounds us is that, as parents, we should pull together and help save our children's lives. Thank you. I would now like to introduce you to Mark Klaas. (Applause.)

MR. KLAAS: I'm Mark Klaas. It's too late for my daughter Polly. However, it's not too late for your children or the 65 victims of violent crime that will die every day, or the 288 women who will be raped every day, or the 700 people who will be the victims of aggravated assault every day between now and the time the crime bill becomes law.

Unlike the politicians who are debating this issue, I am not running for an office. I am here to do the right thing. I am here because I demand -- and the American people demand -- that our government live up to its most fundamental duty, which is the protection of its citizens. Any government that cannot protect the physical security of its citizens is an ineffective government.

We, the American people, are being held hostage by partisan politics and special interest groups. We deserve better than this. I don't want special interests on either side to influence this vitally important crime bill. The fear of crime is the most important issue facing America today. We deserve to feel protected in our homes and on our streets. The fear of crime makes innocent citizens feel like prisoners in their own homes. Let us remove that fear.

Women and children must be protected from the horror of rape and molestation. Innocent citizens must be safeguarded from the fear of murder and violent assault. Violent criminals must get what they deserve -- long sentences and truth in sentencing.

One of the many necessary items in the crime bill is a well-constructed three strikes law that targets repeat violent felons; a three strikes law that sends a clear message -- you do the crime and spend the rest of your miserable, destructive life in prison where you can no longer wreak havoc on innocent people.

We have left our safety up to the politicians for too long. They are up for reelection in less than two months. They will be asking us to return them to Washington, D.C. If their total disregard for the safety of innocent citizens is an example of the type of representation we can expect from them, then our decision on election day should be quite clear.

This issue is not about money; it's about life and death. There is no more time to lose. I know. Because our lives and the lives of our children can change in the blink of an eye. Many thousands of us are affected by violent crime every day. Please call or write your member of Congress now. Demand that they wage war against violent crime in America now. Demand that they vote for the crime bill now. When you tuck your children into bed and kiss them good night, do it with the knowledge that you have instructed your congressperson to support the crime bill now.

It's too late for Polly. But the rest of the children in this great country can still use your help.

Ladies and gentlemen, I've corresponded and spoken with the President on several occasions now. And I've always raised the issue of children and crimes against children. And he's responded with more than just words. He's responded with a good bill. He addressed it many times in the State of the Union address. And I know that having a young daughter himself brings him much closer to this issue. And it is my very great honor and my very great pleasure to introduce the President of the United States. Thank you. (Applause.)

END1:50 P.M. EDT