[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[April 6, 1998]
[Pages 507-508]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks on the Assault Weapons Ban
April 6, 1998

    Thank you very much, Secretary Rubin. 
Thank you for your efforts. Madam Attorney General, thank you. Mr. Vice President, thank you. And to the members of the law enforcement 
community and Secretary Kelly, Mr. Magaw, Attorney General Miller, Congressman Engel, to 
representatives of Handgun Control and the victims of violent crime, and 
to all of you who have come here today, I thank you very much.
    As the Vice President and the Attorney General and the Secretary of 
Treasury have said, 5 years ago we made a commitment as an 
administration to recover our Nation's streets from crime and violence, 
to provide security for our families and our children. It required a new 
determination by communities and by Government. It took a new philosophy 
of law enforcement, based not on tough talk, which was always in ample 
supply, but on tough action and smart action, a philosophy based simply 
on what works, community policing, strong antigang efforts, targeted 
deterrence, smarter, tougher penalties, a comprehensive strategy that 
includes all these elements and puts community policing at its core.
    We're well on our way to putting 100,000 new police officers on the 
street ahead of schedule. And as the Vice President just told us, crime 
rates are dropping all across America to a 25-year low. Violent crime is 
down, property crime is down, and murder is down dramatically. From the 
crime bill to the Brady bill, from the assault weapons ban to the 
Violence Against Women Act, our strategy is showing results. And 
Americans should take both pride and comfort in this progress.
    But statistics tell only part of the story. The real measure of our 
progress is whether responsibility and respect for the law are on the 
rise. The real test of our resolve is whether parents can unlock their 
front doors with confidence and let their children play in the front 
yard without fear. And the fact remains that there are still far too 
many children in harm's way, too many families behind locked doors, too 
many guns in the hands of too many criminals.
    No statistics can measure the pain or the brave resilience of the 
families shattered by gun violence. Some of them are here with us today, 
and I would like to acknowledge them, people like Dan Gross, Tawanna Matthews, Brian 
Miller, Byrl Phillips-Taylor. Byrl's 17-year-old son was killed with an AK-47. 
Tragedies like theirs are a brutal reminder of the task still before us. 
They are a challenge and a call to action that we as a nation cannot 
ignore, and I thank these people for being willing to continue the fight 
through their pain. Thank you very much, all of you.

[[Page 508]]

    If we are going to move forward in building a safer, stronger 
America, all of us, police and parents, communities and public 
officials, must work together. We must remain vigilant. Last November, I 
asked the Treasury Department to conduct the thorough review Secretary 
Rubin has just presented. That is why our 
administration has concluded that the import of assault weapons that use 
large-capacity military magazines should be banned. As everyone knows, 
you don't need an Uzi to go deer hunting. You don't need an AK-47 to go 
skeet shooting. These are military weapons, weapons of war. They were 
never meant for a day in the country, and they are certainly not meant 
for a night on the streets. Today we are working to make sure they stay 
off our streets.
    Two successive administrations have acted on this principle. In 1989 
President Bush banned the import of 43 semi-
automatic assault rifles. In 1994 this administration banned the 
domestic manufacture of certain assault weapons. And in Congress, 
Senator Dianne Feinstein and the late 
Congressman Walter Capps led the fight against foreign gun manufacturers 
who evade the law. As long as those manufacturers can make minor 
cosmetic modifications to weapons of war, our work is not done. And we 
must act swiftly and strongly.
    That is what Secretary Rubin's 
announcement amounts to today. We are doing our best to say, you can 
read the fine print in our law and our regulations all you want, and you 
can keep making your minor changes, but we're going to do our best to 
keep our people alive and stop you from making a dollar in the wrong 
    It is our sworn duty to uphold the law, but it is also our moral 
obligation, our obligation to the children and families of law-abiding 
citizens, an obligation to stop the terrible scourge of gun violence. As 
parents, we teach our children every day to distinguish right from 
wrong. As a nation, we must also remember where to draw the line.
    Today we draw it clearly and indelibly. If we do this, if we follow 
the recommendations set forth in this report, we chart the right course 
for America toward a future more free of fear and a new century brimming 
with confidence and great promise.
    Again, to all of you who played any role in this important day, I 
thank you on behalf of the people and the children and the future of the 
United States. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 10:55 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to Raymond W. Kelly, Under Secretary 
of the Treasury for Enforcement; John W. Magaw, Director, Bureau of 
Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; and Iowa Attorney General Thomas J.