May 10, 1999
The 106th Congress has an historic opportunity to ensure community safety into the 21st century by continuing and expanding on the successful programs put into place by the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (VCCLEA). The Administration commends the Senate for addressing the important issue of juvenile crime, but is disappointed that the legislation fails to address a number of other areas critical to fighting crime effectively. The Administration supports a broad-based, comprehensive approach to crime and would support Senate passage of S. 254 if it were to provide a more comprehensive approach to fighting and preventing crime.
One of the most significant contributions to our Nation's safer streets has been made by the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. We are fast approaching our goal to fund 100,000 police officers, and our crime rates are at a 25-year low. We are on the right track and must continue to follow it. That is why President Clinton 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 S. 254.
While the Administration has made great progress in reducing gun-related crime and violence in our Nation, gun violence remains a serious public safety problem. Last month, President Clinton unveiled a comprehensive proposal to strengthen our Federal firearms laws in several important ways. First, the President's proposal expands the successful Brady Law, extending Brady background checks to all gun show sales, as well as to the purchase of explosives. Second, his proposal further restricts youth access to guns by raising the age of the current youth handgun ban from 18 to 21 years of age and banning youth possession of all semiautomatic assault rifles and large capacity ammunition clips. In addition, the President's legislation cracks down on illegal gun traffickers by limiting handgun sales to no more than one per month per person, helping law enforcement to trace more crime guns to their source, and creating new tools to go after gun dealers involved in illegal gun trafficking. S. 254 does not include any of these common sense provisions that build on the efforts proven to be highly effective in keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and youth. The Administration would support amendments to S. 254 that achieve these goals.
We must also do more to address domestic violence. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) enacted as part of the VCCLEA has done more to break the cycle of domestic violence than any other piece of Federal legislation. In order to make continued progress in this area, VAWA must be reauthorized and revitalized. The Administration proposes providing new protections for the victims of domestic violence, establishing new penalties for offenses involving trafficking in women, and strengthening Federal law to protect children exposed to violence. S. 254 neither addresses VAWA nor does anything to break the cycle of family violence.
S. 254 also neglects another area of critical importance - drug supervision for persons under criminal justice supervision. The President's FY 2000 budget included $215 million for a program to help States and localities implement tough new systems to provide drug testing, sanctions, and treatment for prisoners, parolees, and probationers; to fund drug courts; and to provide intensive drug treatment to hardcore drug users before and after they are released from prison. We must do more to help people break the bonds of drug addiction through testing and treatment, coupled with sanctions for those who refuse the help extended to them.
While the Administration recognizes the importance of addressing juvenile crime, it is only through a comprehensive approach to crime -- including prevention, intervention, treatment 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.