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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release September 10, 1994




Robert Sandifer was 8 years old the first time he was arrested by police. He was 11 years old when he died, a victim, police believe, of a gang-related killing. He was also suspected of killing Shavon Dean, an innocent victim of an earlier gang-related shooting. In Shavon and Robert's hometown, the number of gang homicides has nearly tripled since 1980. And in neighborhoods across America, too many mothers and fathers have experienced the anguish of losing a child to the meanness of the streets. For them and for all of us, it is past time to end the violence.

At younger and younger ages, boys and girls are turning to gangs. For a child without an involved family, a gang offers a feeling of belonging. For a young person without options for tomorrow, a gang offers a sense of purpose. For all those born in a home cordoned off against danger, with bars on the windows and chains on the doors, life on the streets seems all too often a taste of freedom they have never known. But American freedom is better than that. We know this. We see freedom at work every day in the determined faces of parents striving to make a better life for themselves and their children. And we see it every day in big cities and small towns across the country as Americans come together to put the spirit of community to work.

Confronted with the horror of children planning their own funerals, our Nation has begun planning for the future. Our first, best hope is in the common cause of those around us. A community that shares life's experiences can be an important source of strength and understanding in a world that seems filled with growing violence and diminishing hope. Families and communities are coming together across the country to bring hope to even our most troubled youth. In Birmingham, Alabama, where police officers are sponsoring athletic teams and tutoring programs in 52 neighborhoods, youth crime has dropped by 30 percent. In Los Angeles, teachers and sheriffs are working in teams to show kids alternative methods of resolving conflicts, encouraging them to develop a sense of self-worth apart from gangs. The 1994 crime bill seeks to provide grassroots programs like these the resources they need to push forward in their efforts and to succeed in their fight.

In an invaluable victory for citizens across the country, the Congress passed, and I will soon sign, a crime bill that is designed to save the lives of children like Shavon and Robert. This path-breaking legislation will punish hardened young criminals by requiring stronger penalties, and it will expand the use of community boot camps, drug courts, and other alternative sanctions to stop first-time offenders from beginning a lifetime of crime. It bans 19 of the deadliest assault weapons, and it goes a long way toward keeping guns out of the hands of juveniles. With strong measures of discipline and training, drug treatment and education, this bill takes on the sickness of gangs and drugs and gives our young people a new chance at life. Ours is important work: It is about trying to save a generation of children and to secure the future life of a country. It is a job we can surely do.

Ours remains the greatest Nation the world has ever known because we have not shied away from challenges. Rather, we have consistently sought to surmount them. The problem of gang violence is among the most profound we as a people have ever faced. We must respect our young people enough to give them a positive choice for the future. We must take responsibility for teaching them to choose what is right. The solutions are within our reach. The power to change America is within ourselves. Together, we must work to redeem the promise that every young life holds.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, WILLIAM J. CLINTON, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim the week of September 12 through September 16, 1994, as "National Gang Violence Prevention Week." I call upon the people of the United States to observe this week with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this tenth day of September, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-four, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and nineteenth.


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