THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Belmont, California)
REMARKS BY SENATOR FEINSTEIN AT THE SIGNING OF PRESIDENTIAL MEMORANDUM: "ZERO TOLERANCE FOR GUNS IN SCHOOLS" Carlmont High School Belmont, California
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: Thank you very much. Mr. President, my colleagues in government, and ladies and gentlemen, I want you to know how much we appreciate this President, and how much he has done for California. I don't know any sitting president that has returned to California as much as President Clinton has. I know after the Loma Priater earthquake a president wasn't here. I know after the Northridge earthquake this President came to California, the Vice President came, the Cabinet Secretaries came, $10 billion in earthquake relief was fed, and this President cares about our great state. (Applause.)
So, Mr. President, as the Senator from California, it's a great treat for me to welcome you once again to this magnificent and beautiful state. Although, I must say that this morning we welcome you with a sobering and concerning note because the legislation, and the executive order that you're about to sign to implement it, is something that should cause everyone in this gymnasium and in gymnasiums all across this state great concern.
Let me begin with a couple of statistics. According to the National School Safety Center, every day 135,000 guns are brought into the schools of this country. Since 1993, in a year alone, there have been 35 deaths and 92 injuries from guns. It's estimated that 160,000 students across this great land don't go to class because they fear violence. And one out of every five students carries a weapon: a gun, a knife or a club. School violence has become the number one concern of parents.
And for very good reason. Violence and fear have become epidemic on some of our campuses. Worse than that, in many areas it's standard. Last year in this great state two students were killed in a single California school district in one month. One, shot during his english class. And the other, Michael Ensley (phonetic), with whom I visited with his mother at Reseda High -- during a break at Reseda High -- and shot because he had a look on his face that the assailant didn't like.
And it's not just an urban school problem. Earlier this year in this school a 15 year old student, named Edward Simms (phonetic), was shot and killed by another student who had threatened Simms with a gun at school in the days before the shooting. And throughout the state our school districts have experienced an alarming increase in weapons on school campuses. And it's not just a high school problem. In fact, there was 103 percent increase in weapons seized in Oakland elementary schools last year. And five guns seized at a single junior high school.
That's why Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, and I, in the Senate of the United States, propose some very strong language as an amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It's called the Gun Free Schools Act. And I am very proud, Mr. President, that you have decided that this amendment is important enough for you to be signing an executive order to put it in place today in California. (Applause.)
The Gun Free Schools Act requires that states and school districts adopt a mandatory one year expulsion policy for students who bring guns to school. Local discretion is built-in, states will be given time to conform, and alternative education is permitted. But what this legislation means is that as parents, teachers, students and law enforcement we will have zero tolerance for guns anywhere in the schools in the United States of America. (Applause.)
Mr. President, your signature on this executive order will make clear that state and local education agencies must implement a zero tolerance policy as a condition of receiving federal education funds. Those who refuse to adopt this policy could lose their share of over $10 billion in federal education funds, including $729 million in Chapter One funds for the state of California.
I must tell you, Mr. President, and ladies and gentlemen, that mandatory expulsion has already proven to be an effective deterrent, and it has been credited with lowering gun possession and gun related violence in many school districts. Let me give you one. Los Angeles, for example, gun possession dropped 27 percent. And gun related school violence decreased 34 percent in 1993 and 1994, when a zero tolerance measure was implemented by the Los Angeles County Board of Education.
I am very proud to welcome you here today, and also to point out that you have provided in recommendations to the Congress for additional funds in Goals 2000 -- which you recommended to us and which we passed and which you signed into law; in the Safe and Drug Free Schools Act, which you recommended, we passed and you signed into law -- $54 million in one, and $47 million to others -- to provide for safe schools throughout the state of California. And, Mr. President, the Crime Bill, which you so strongly supported and we passed, provides $37 million in safe haven and youth violence prevention funding, to help communities develop programs before and after school.
And, finally, there is just one prevention program none of us at the federal level can mandate, and that's good parents. Parents that teach their youngsters the difference between right and wrong, parents that give them love and discipline, and parents that know their whereabouts every hour of every day of every week.
So, Mr. President, I truly believe that you and the Congress of the United States have done their job in providing a framework within which local jurisdictions -- school districts, mayors, boards of supervisors, city councils all across this great nation can mount a major prevention problem for safety in our schools, in our work place, on our streets and in our homes. And, Mr. President, I thank you for this leadership. (Applause.)
And, now, it is a great treat for me to be able to introduce to an audience that knows him well, the principal of this great school, Mr. Michael Johnson. (Applause.)