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Public Papers - 1991 - March

Message to the Congress Transmitting Proposed Crime Control Legislation

1991-03-11

To the Congress of the United States:

I am pleased to transmit this Administration's primary legislative initiative addressing the continuing threat of violent crime in this country. This proposal, entitled the ``Comprehensive Violent Crime Control Act of 1991,'' contains a broad spectrum of critically needed reforms to the criminal justice system, as well as new offenses and penalties for various acts of life-threatening criminal behavior. Also transmitted is a section-by-section analysis. I urge that congressional action on this initiative be completed within the next 100 days.

The enormous danger posed by violent criminals in our midst today is totally unacceptable. In 1990, more than 20,000 Americans were murdered. Our citizens are rightly demanding that elected officials act with resolve to reduce substantially the threat violent crime poses to their families and communities. The dramatic victory achieved by our military forces in the Persian Gulf serves as a model for what can be accomplished by leaders and citizens committed to achieving a common goal. It is time for all Americans to work together to take back the streets and liberate our neighborhoods from the tyranny of fear.

This legislative package is designed to address comprehensively the failures of the current criminal justice system. There must be a clear understanding on the streets of America that anyone who threatens the lives of others will be held accountable. To this end, it is essential that we have swift and certain apprehension, prosecution, and incarceration. Too many times, in too many cases, criminals go free because the scales of justice are unfairly loaded against dedicated law enforcement officials.

The core elements of my proposal are:

Restoration of the Federal Death Penalty by establishing constitutionally sound procedures and adequate standards for imposing Federal death penalties that are already on the books (including mail bombing and murder of Federal officials); and authorizing the death penalty for drug kingpins and for certain heinous acts such as terrorist murders of American nationals abroad, killing of hostages, and murder for hire.

Habeas Corpus Reform to stop the often frivolous and repetitive appeals that clog our criminal justice system, and in many cases effectively nullify State death penalties, by limiting the ability of Federal and State prisoners to file repetitive habeas corpus petitions.

Exclusionary Rule Reform to limit the release of violent criminals due to legal technicalities by permitting the use of evidence that has been seized by Federal or State law enforcement officials acting in ``good faith,'' or a firearm seized from dangerous criminals by a Federal law enforcement officer. This proposal also includes a system for punishing Federal officers who violate Fourth Amendment standards, as well as a means for compensating victims of unlawful searches.

Increased Firearms Offenses and Penalties including a 10-year mandatory prison term for the use of a semiautomatic firearm in a drug trafficking offense or violent felony, a 5-year mandatory sentence for possession of a firearm by dangerous felons, new offenses involving theft of firearms and smuggling firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking or violent crimes, and a general ban on gun clips and magazines that enable a firearm to fire more that 15 rounds without reloading.

In addition to these proposals, my initiative contains elements designed to curb terrorism, racial injustice, sexual violence, and juvenile crime, and to support appropriate drug testing as a condition of post-conviction release for Federal prisoners.

I look forward to working with the Congress during the next 100 days on this necessary legislation.

George Bush

The White House,

March 11, 1991.

George Bush Presidential Library and Museum
1000 George Bush Drive West, College Station, Texas 77845
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