THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
President Clinton: Honoring and Protecting Our Law Enforcement
Today, President Clinton will sign two bills to: (1) honor law enforcement killed in the line of duty by providing college scholarships to their families; and (2) strengthen penalties for violent criminals and drug traffickers who possess, brandish, or discharge a gun when committing a crime.
Honoring Our Police
College scholarships for the families of slain officers. On October 3, 1996, President Clinton signed into law the Federal Law Enforcement Dependents Assistance Act (FLEDA). The law provides higher education benefits for the spouses and children of Federal law enforcement officers killed or disabled in the line of duty. Last fall, 11 young men and women were able to go to college as a result of the Act. Expanding assistance to more families. Last year, President Clinton called on Congress to pass legislation to provide similar educational assistance to the families of state and local law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. Today, President Clinton will sign the Police, Fire, and Emergency Officers Educational Assistance Act of 1998, which expands FLEDA to provide college scholarships to the dependents of all public safety officers slain or incapacitated in the line of duty. In addition to the families of slain state and local law enforcement officers, this new law will benefit the families of firefighters, correctional officers, and rescue and ambulance squad members.
Enforcing Tougher Punishments
Applying the law to more gun-carrying criminals. The President will also sign S. 191, a bill that clarifies and strengthens the federal penalties that apply to violent criminals and drug felons who commit crimes while carrying a gun. Prior to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, courts had applied a broad interpretation of what constituted "use" of a firearm during the commission of a federal crime. The Supreme Court narrowed that interpretation allowing, for example, drug traffickers with guns in their car trunks to avoid the 5-year mandatory minimum sentences intended by Congress. This new law makes clear that violent criminals and drug felons who simply possess a firearm during the commission of a federal crime are subject to an additional -- and mandatory -- sentence of 5 years. Increasing penalties. S. 191 also increases the stiff, mandatory penalties that apply to criminals who actually use firearms during the commission of certain federal crimes. Specifically, this new law provides that -- in addition to the penalties that apply for underlying violent or drug crimes -- criminals receive a mandatory minimum sentence of at least 7 years for brandishing a firearm and of at least 10 years if the firearm is discharged. The bill also increases the penalty for subsequent convictions for these offenses from 20 years to 25 years. ###