NRA Press Conference


Statement by Wayne LaPierre May 10th, 1999 NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION



Hi. I'm Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, and with me is Jim Baker, the executive director of the Institute for Legislative Action of the National Rifle Association, and Bob Delfay, who is executive director of the Shooting Sports Foundation.

I'd like to start with just a brief statement. And please bear with me, but I honestly believe it needs to be said, and the country needs to hear it in the worst way. The National Rifle Association has a fundamental core interest in reducing crime with guns in this country. But I believe what we're dealing with lately has become a dishonest process almost all the way around. The manifestation of it that we see is no gun prosecutions. But really the breakdown is a lot larger. The whole process of gun legislation, in a very real way, is becoming phony. It's becoming a perverse form of new entertainment. People in the know already know that no one is going to be prosecuted. Federal judges, politicians, the courts, the Attorney General of the United States, the President of the United States, and believe me, criminals.

The high drama has become an end in itself. It's no more real than a made for TV movie with violence. And yet like TV violence, it may entertain us, but this process is ultimately hurting us. Because the fraud of the process is that all that counts in the end is criminals all over this country with guns are walking free.

In Columbine, those two murderers broke 18 laws on the books. You could pass 50, but the problem is, bad people still do bad things. And it comes down in the end in almost all cases of criminal violence with guns to prosecution.

If you have gun-free school zones acts, like we do, and yet in the last two years you let 6,000 juveniles illegally show up in school violating that law, and you only prosecute 13 of those cases, like the Department of Justice has had, you're not making anybody safer. Kip Kinkle in Oregon was blowing up cats, threatening people's lives, took a gun to school. He was sent home, he wasn't prosecuted, and he came back the next day and killed all those kids.

Putting gangbangers back on the streets with no prosecution, you're not making America safer. And yet, in the last two years, Bill Clinton's Department of Justice has only prosecuted 11 of those cases nationwide for juveniles illegally carrying guns.

Sending convicted felons that we catch in cars or on the streets with guns home without prosecution, that doesn't make us any safer.

The person most likely to shoot a cop, the person most likely to shoot a citizen, is a felon with a gun. And yet every cop in the country, in cities all over this country, will tell you, when they pick up a felon with a gun and they call the Department of Justice and they beg for prosecution, 99.9 percent of the time, they're told to take a hike, "We're not interested."

I just had a police officer call me from Miami two weeks ago. Picked up a multi-convicted felon in a car with a sawed-off shotgun, called the administration, said, "Please prosecute." "We're not interested." That's not
making us safer.

We have a law right now that says if you're carrying guns and selling drugs on any street of America, you can be taken off the street for 10 to 20 years mandatory.

At least the Bush administration had a memo out to the U.S. attorneys saying, "Don't plea bargain down that charge."

One of the first things Janet Reno did when she came into office was send out a memo to the U.S. attorneys telling them, "If you want to plea down that charge, use your own discretion." And we have seen a 50 percent reduction in those types of prosecutions under this administration.

Do we really think sending 250,000 felons, as the President has talked about, in gun stores, committing a brand new federal crime trying to buy a gun, sending those people home without prosecution is accomplishing anything? They prosecuted zero of those cases in '96, zero in '97, and zero in '98. I mean, what does the President think those felons are doing, going, "Oh, shucks, they don't want me to have a gun. I guess I won't have a gun." I mean, we all know if they need a gun, and they want a gun for their crime, they're going to find a way illegally to get a gun, and unless you prosecute them, you've done absolutely nothing to stop crime in this country.

Instead of dealing with those problems, what we see is the President now dusting off every tired old gun control bill that's been around his administration for the last six years -- waiting periods, one-gun-a-month schemes, imports on magazine bans, mandatory locks -- tired old schemes that have no real impact on
this criminal culture of violence in this country.

You hear him talking about checks at gun shows, but the truth is, yes, he wants to impose a big fee on the transaction, yes, he wants to computerize the names and the addresses of those lawful citizens cleared trying to buying a gun at a gun show. But he has absolutely no intention of prosecuting any of the criminals that they catch at a gun show trying to buy a gun. He intends to let them walk out the door scot-free and not do a thing to them.

Again, I can't emphasize enough: How long are we going to let the President get away with this sound bite of 250,000 felons walking into gun stores have been stopped trying to buy guns, like we're actually accomplishing something.

As I've said the reality is, they aren't stopped. They'll look for a gun somewhere else illegally. And they've committed a new crime right under the Attorney General of the United States' nose and absolutely nothing is being done them.

Again, now they want to pass a lot more laws they have no intention at all of enforcing.

I believe, starting today, it's time we all stopped playing along with this game. It's time we got out on the streets and got off of the stage. It's time we got real about crime fighting in this country. Let's fund nationwide a program called Project Exile, with a $50 million appropriation through Congress to put
the prosecutors out there and a $25 million appropriation for advertising support for that program.

What that program will say very clear -- and has had dramatic results in Richmond, 50 percent reductions in robberies with guns in Rochester is every time you catch a felon with a gun, you're going to be prosecuted.

Every time you catch someone carrying guns and selling drugs, you're going to be prosecuted. Every time you catch a violent juvenile with a gun, you're going prosecuted, 100 percent of the time, no plea bargain, no bail, you're going to the federal penitentiary.

That will change the atmosphere in this culture of violence the President talks about, because criminals will finally realize we're serious.

This one proposal would cut at the heart of this culture of violence the President talks about like nothing else being proposed anywhere in the country.

And the cops and the police all over the country know that. Instead when the NRA supports Project Exile, we're ridiculed by the Department of Justice. They call it a cookie-cutter approach to solving crime.

And they talk about different cities have different circumstances and that's true. But the baseline ought to be, if you catch a felon with a gun, a felon trying to buy a gun, a violent juvenile, a violent gangmember with a gun, they ought to be prosecuted.

Some of these are being prosecuted at the local level. But the truth is, and the criminals know it, if they are, they get a slap on wrist not a long jail sentence. If you're prosecuted at the federal level, you serve 85 percent of your sentence, not a fourth of your sentence or a fifth of your sentence like at the state level.

The federal level you have speedy trials. They have the ability to deny bail. They also eliminate judge shopping and that's going on all over the country. We ought to also computerize the records of those adjudicated mentally incompetent by a court of law so that they'll be flagged on the instant check system. We call that the Hinkley loophole, but they ought to computerize them.

Finally, we call on the President to explain why the criminal behavior of gangbangers should be forgiven at the age of 18 or 21. We need to open those criminal juvenile records as opposed to expunge their record in the middle of a crime spree.

Juvenile Brady? Yes, someone that -- a young person, a juvenile that commits a violent crime, ought to be forever prohibited from owning a gun and we support that. And we also support increasing the penalties on illegally-transferring guns to juveniles in straw man sales.

But the truth is, and again, I'll get back to prosecutions: The President can call for an increase in the penalties and the National Rifle Association will support him. But in the entire United States in the last few years, he's only prosecuted 11 of those cases in his administration.

It really comes down to the President talks about easy accessibility of guns to people we all want not to have guns. And yet, when you preside over an administration that has presided over the collapse, total collapse, of the federal enforcement of the firearms laws on the books in our country, you're going to get easy accessibility to firearms to bad people that we all want not to have firearms .

I hear the President talk about 13 children a day being killed with firearms, and one is too many. But the truth is, he's given the country the impression they're four and five and six and eight.

Has anyone bothered to look at the figures? Of those 4700, 4000 of them are 15- to 19-year-old juveniles. Everything they're doing is already prohibited and illegal with guns. And they're not being taken off the streets and they're not being prosecuted under these existing federal laws.

You want to stop those children, as the President calls them, from dying, and we all do. You enforce the federal laws on the books against them to cut at the heart of the culture of violence, you'll do those juveniles a favor and you'll do the country a favor.

Anyway, my plea is, let's get away from these failed steps and this phony game that's been going on in this country and let's do something that works. The NRA calls on Congress to develop a substantial, real effort to address the crime problem that does exist in this country involving criminals and guns and violent juveniles and guns.

We all know the killers at Littleton did everything but write it in the sky now that they were a problem. A waiting period wouldn't have stopped them. A trigger lock wouldn't have stopped them. A one-gun-a-month scheme certainly wouldn't have stopped them. I don't know what would have stopped Eric Harris.

But the truth is a tough criminal justice system with tough, no-nonsense enforcement of the federal laws we have on the books and tough gun prosecution of the federal laws we have on the books will cut to the heart of this culture of violence the President talks about.

Prosecute and enforce the Gun-Free School Zones Act will at least give us a chance. You can't say zero tolerance and not mean it and not prosecute.

The sad thing is, the president said he wants all voices worth hearing around the table with him. He didn't mean it any more than he intends to prosecute criminals and violent criminals with guns.

He did not invite the National Rifle Association to sit at the table with him. I believe it was because he was afraid of the mirror that Charlton Heston and the National Rifle Association would have held up to the complete collapse of the enforcement of the federal firearms laws under his administration in the last six years.

I ask the press, given the fact we can't be there, to ask the president those questions, these tough questions. If 250,000 convicted felons try to buy guns, why do you let them go home and do nothing to them? If juveniles illegally bring guns to school, why do you let them go home and not prosecute?

As I said, it's OK to raise the penalties on illegal possession of guns by juveniles, but why do only prosecute 11 in the whole country when we're talking about the gangbangers that are killing people on the streets of this country?

Why, if you talk about gun running, Mr. President, why have you only prosecuted 37 cases in the last two years of illegally providing felons to guns ?

And I could go on all down the federal statutes and you'd see the same results. There's no evidence that anything in the President's new package he's proposing--or old package I should say -- is going to stop crime or do anything about this culture of violence he's talking about.

I believe what the NRA is proposing today, and what we hope to lobby Congress to support and get through and get signed into law, will make a dramatic difference in terms of making us all safer in this country. Thank you very much.

Thank you.

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