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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release November 13, 1998


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.