Clinton Talks Tough on Crime; Mrs Clinton Joins InTERENCE HUNT , Associated Press
Dec. 10, 1993 5:39 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Pledging tougher gun controls, President Clinton said Friday that America is too violent and it ''makes a mockery of all the things we say we believe.''
Hillary Rodham Clinton joined her husband in talking tough about crime.
''I really think we should have much harsher, longer sentences for violent offenders, keep them put away longer,'' the first lady said.
''We've been building prisons very fast in our country but we're throwing into our prisons people who are white collar criminals and nonviolent criminals along with our violent criminals,'' she said. ''And we're letting out our violent criminals along with our nonviolent ones because of the problems of cost and overcrowding.''
The president spoke about crime during an Oval Office ceremony and then discussed the subject in a joint televised appearance with Mrs. Clinton on ''The Home Show.''
Asked his hopes for the New Year, Clinton replied, ''My hope is that we will achieve more peace on Earth next year, peace in the Middle East, relief of tensions in other places in the world but mostly that the American people will find a way to bring peace to our own streets, our own homes, our own communities.''
''Our nation is too violent,'' the president continued. ''It makes a mockery of all the things we say we believe. It is turning the joy of childhood into a tragedy for too many millions of children. And I'm going to work real hard next year to have more peace on this piece of Earth that we inhabit in the United States.''
He said that fighting crime will be a top priority next year, along with overhauling the nation's health care and welfare systems.
Republican Sens. Bob Dole of Kansas, the minority leader, and Alfonse D'Amato of New York, wrote Clinton and urged him to endorse a Senate measure that they called ''the toughest anticrime bill ever considered by Congress.''
Its provisions include the death penalty for drug kingpins and life imprisonment without parole for those convicted in federal court of a third violent crime.
Separately, Dole issued a press release criticizing Clinton for ''squandering a golden opportunity'' by supporting gun-control initiatives rather than focusing on the crime legislation in the Congress.
Earlier, Clinton said the Brady law, requiring a five-day waiting period and background check of handgun buyers, was a good first step. ''But it is nowhere near enough. It is the beginning and we have got to move forward.''
''The main thing I can tell you is that we are committed to going further,'' the president said.
His comments coincided with a new poll showing that a majority of Americans favor tighter restrictions on gun ownership.
''We have to figure out exactly what to do and in what order,'' Clinton told reporters. ''The possibility of movement here has just opened up and the American people need to keep the pressure on and we'll keep moving.''
A crime bill moving through Congress would put 100,000 additional police on the streets, and, among other things, prohibit the sale or transfer of handguns to juveniles.
Clinton also has directed the Justice Department to study a variety of gun licensing and registration proposals.
''There are lots of issues here,'' Clinton said. ''We're going to try to deal with them all in an aggressive and forthright way.''
Attorney General Janet Reno said she favored states taking action to restrict gun ownership. Reno, appearing on ABC, CBS and NBC, repeated her argument that gun ownership should require licensing just as driving a car does.
Asked if that would violate a constitutional right to bear arms, Reno, replied: ''All our constitutional rights require a reasonable balance.''
A new poll said that 45 percent of those surveyed felt the National Rifle Association has too much to say about gun control laws. That's an increase from the 39 percent who expressed that view in another poll, taken in August.
The survey of 1,479 Americans was taken last weekend by the Times Mirror Center for the People & the Press.
Reno said the NRA has always been out of step with the majority of Americans. ''People want a sensible, reasonable approach to guns and they want to end this focus and absolute love affair with guns,'' she said.
Mrs. Clinton said that aside from getting tougher on violent criminals, ''We also have to start keeping families together, we have to have a better combination of love and discipline for our children. We need more fathers to stay involved in their children's lives and to be examples, especially for young boys.''