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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release April 21, 2000

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. I'm so pleased to join you as the National Campaign Against Youth Violence kicks off its City-by-City initiative.

Seven years ago, I had the honor to speak at the Church of God in Christ in Memphis. That morning I spoke about the awful toll of youth violence and gun crime in our communities. On that day, I said, unless we deal with the ravages of crime and violence, none of the other things we seek to do will ever take us where we need to go.

Together, we have come a long way in the last seven years. With our strategy of putting more cops on the beat and getting more guns off the street, overall crime has fallen for the seventh year in a row. The juvenile violent crime arrest rate is the lowest in 10 years. And with 100,000 new community police officers and the Brady law, we've kept guns out of the hands of a half-million felons, fugitives and stalkers.

But while we've made great progress, one act of violence is still one too many. Nearly a year has passed since the awful tragedy at Columbine, and gunfire continues to take the lives of nearly a dozen young people every single day.

If we're going to reach our goal of making America the safest big country on Earth, all of us have a responsibility to act. And Congress has to do its part, too, by sending me common-sense gun legislation that mandates child safety locks; closes the gun show loophole; bans the importation of large ammunition clips; and holds adults accountable when they allow young people to get their hands on deadly guns.

Our administration is trying to do its part, by strengthening the enforcement of our gun laws, supporting more after-school programs, more mentoring and more conflict resolution and peer mediation. Last year, we helped to launch the National Campaign Against Youth Violence, and we established a new White House Youth Violence Council to coordinate the wide-ranging efforts of the federal government.

We're also working hard to ensure that all Americans are treated with dignity, and that no American is victimized by violence because of his or her race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. That's why we've fought so hard to pass a strong hate crimes law, to promote diversity, to end discrimination in the work force. We must all recommit ourselves to respecting one another, to seeing our diversity as our greatest strength, and to recognizing the fundamental values that define us as one America.

Ultimately, this effort begins on the ground, at the grass roots. You can reach out to troubled youth. You can help to change a culture that too often glorifies violence and hate. You can talk to your children, teach them to resolve their conflicts peacefully, and raise them with the right values. I'm grateful, because in Memphis, you're doing these things. And there's no mission more important for our nation.

Your work in Memphis, and the work of the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission, is a testament to the fundamental goodness of the American spirit. It sets an example I hope cities all across our land will follow.

Thank you, and God bless you.