THE WHITE HOUSE AT WORK
Friday, November 13, 1998
SUPPORTING COPS -- PROTECTING COMMUNITIES
Every year, too many police officers make the ultimate sacrifice to keep us safe. I believe we must do more than build monuments to honor their memories -- we must take action -- action to prevent more needless, tragic deaths, action to continue the work these brave men and women gave their lives to do, and above all, action to help the families they leave behind.
President Bill Clinton
November 13, 1998
Today at the White House, President Clinton will sign two bills, one to honor law enforcement killed in the line of duty by providing college scholarships to their families; and a second to strengthen penalties for violent criminals and drug traffickers who possess, brandish, or discharge a gun when committing a crime.
Honoring Our Fallen Police Officers. On October 3, 1996, President Clinton signed into law the Federal Law Enforcement Dependent Assistance Act (FLEDA). The law provides higher education benefits for the spouses and children of Federal law enforcement officers killed or disabled in the line of duty. Last fall, 11 young men and women were able to go to college as a result of the Act. Last year, President Clinton called on Congress to pass legislation to provide similar educational assistance to the families of state and local law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. Today, President Clinton will sign the Police, Fire, and Emergency Officers Educational Assistance Act of 1998, which:
- Expands FLEDA to provide college scholarships to the dependents of all public safety officers slain or incapacitated in the line of duty. In addition to the families of slain state and local law enforcement officers, this new law will benefit the families of firefighters, correctional officers, and rescue and ambulance squad members.
Enforcing Tougher Punishments. The President will also sign S. 191, a bill that clarifies and strengthens the federal penalties that apply to violent criminals and drug felons who commit crimes while carrying a gun. Prior to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, courts had applied a broad interpretation of what constituted "use" of a firearm during the commission of a federal crime. The Supreme Court narrowed that interpretation allowing, for example, drug traffickers with guns in their car trunks to avoid the 5-year mandatory minimum sentences intended by Congress. This new law makes clear that violent criminals and drug felons who simply possess a firearm in furtherance of a federal crime are subject to an additional -- and mandatory -- sentence of 5 years. This legislation also increases the stiff, mandatory penalties that apply to criminals who actually use firearms during the commission of certain federal crimes. Specifically, this new law provides that --in addition to the penalties that apply for underlying violent or drug crimes:
- Criminals receive a mandatory minimum sentence of at least 7 years for brandishing a firearm and of at least 10 years if the firearm is discharged. The bill also increases the penalty for second or subsequent convictions for these offenses from 20 years to 25 years.
A Strong Record Of Law Enforcement And Crime Reduction. Since 1993, President Clinton has made law enforcement and crime fighting a top priority:
- Protecting law enforcement from deadly assault weapons. The President's 1994 anti-crime bill banned 19 of the deadliest cop-killing assault weapons. This spring, the Department of Treasury generally banned the importation of more than 50 models of modified assault weapons;
- Preventing criminals from buying handguns. In 1993, the President signed the Brady Bill. Since its passage, over 250,000 stalkers, fugitives, and felons have been prevented from buying guns. Fewer guns on our streets mean safer streets for our officers and families;
- Giving the police the protection they deserve. In June 1998, the President signed the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Act to provide grants to help states and local governments defray the costs of purchasing bulletproof vests;
- Putting 100,000 new police officers on the street. President Clinton's Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program has already funded more than 88,000 police officers, well on the way to meeting the President's goal of 100,000 new police officers.