June 16, 1999
The Administration supports a comprehensive approach to addressing the problem of youth crime and violence. The President has taken the lead to address youth violence on all fronts - from the media to the gun industry to parental responsibility. Most importantly, the Administration supports common sense gun legislation to help keep guns out of the hands of children and criminals. Specifically, the Administration supports measures to strengthen the successful Brady Law to require Brady background checks at gun shows and flea markets, and to raise the age of handgun ownership from 18 to 21. In addition, the Administration supports other life-saving measures already passed by the Senate to: require mandatory child safety devices with every new handgun sold; ban the importation of large capacity ammunition clips; prohibit violent juveniles from buying guns as adults; and bar juvenile possession of assault rifles.
The Administration opposes H.R. 2122, which fails to close the gun show loophole. The bill contains a narrower definition of "gun show" that would not cover flea markets and other such commercial venues where hundreds of guns are regularly bought and sold. In addition, the bill creates a safe harbor for criminals by creating a new class of "instant check registrants" to do background checks at gun shows - undermining law enforcement efforts to trace firearms that are later used in crimes. We also oppose the Dingell amendment, which maintains many of the bill's worst features and makes other provisions worse. For example, it shortens the amount of time law enforcement officials have to conduct background checks. According to the FBI, if this 24 hour limit were applied to all current background checks, an estimated 17,000 criminals would have been able to purchase guns over the past 6 months.
We strongly support the McCarthy/Roukema amendment, the only amendment to H.R. 2122 that will close the gun show loophole once and for all.
In addition, the Administration supports comprehensive legislation to strengthen youth responsibility and accountability by juvenile offenders. While the Administration recognizes the importance of addressing juvenile crime, it is only through a comprehensive approach to crime -- including prevention, intervention, and punishment -- that we can continue to lower our crime rate, improve the safety of our communities, and deter children and adults from a life of crime.
To this end, the Administration supports the Conyers substitute. This amendment reauthorizes the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS) -- which has made a significant contribution to our nation's safer streets. The President proposed nearly $1.3 billion in his FY 2000 budget - and nearly $6.4 billion over the next five years - for a new 21st Century Policing Initiative to help communities build on their efforts under the COPS program. This initiative will enable communities to continue to hire, redeploy, and retain police officers; to give law enforcement officers access to the latest crime-fighting technologies; to hire community prosecutors; and to foster community-wide prevention. These successful tools in the fight against crime must be an integral part of any legislation that seeks to make our streets safer, but they are not included in current House legislation.
In addition, the Administration has concerns with the McCollum amendment, which would treat certain juveniles prosecuted in the federal system too harshly by failing to provide needed safeguards for younger juveniles, and juveniles who are charged with less serious crimes.
Finally, the Administration supports serious efforts to address the issue of media violence and its effects on young people. That is why the President has taken the lead in challenging the entertainment industry to live up to its responsibilities and initiating both a Surgeon General's report on youth violence and a joint FTC/DOJ study of the industry's marketing practices. The Administration, however, opposes an expected amendment to ban the distribution of certain violent material to teenagers. A broad prohibition of this kind on the sale or exhibition of violent materials would raise profound First Amendment concerns -- so much so that the drafters of this provision have included expansive loopholes that insofar as they address constitutional problems would render the provision, in critical respects, virtually impossible to enforce and therefore meaningless.