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pd24my99 Statement on Withdrawal of the Nomination of Brian Atwood To Be...
So the fundamental thing is, we have to still do a better job trying to help parents understand what it means for children to move into adolescence and to drift away, and to be given both independence and still be held accountable and be involved with their parents and their lives. And we have to help [[Page 905]] the schools do a better job of connecting and telling kids how they can find nonviolent ways to deal with their conflicts, and how they can count no matter what group they're in and how they can be treated with respect no matter what group they're in. I don't see how anybody can dispute the fact that it's crazy to have a country where, you know, criminals can buy guns at gun shows they can't buy at gun stores. I mean, I think that's a pretty hard case to defend. I think it's a hard case to defend to say we've abolished assault weapons--thanks in no small measure, by the way, to a citizen from San Francisco named Steve Sposato, who lost his wife in a shooting, a man who happened to be a Republican. I met him and his daughter. So we abolished assault weapons, but we let people keep bringing in these big ammunition clips and selling them legally as long as they were imported, as opposed to homegrown. How come these things are in the law? These things don't happen by accident, folks. I did the best I could back in 1994. I pushed that thing as hard as I could push. So now we have a sense all over the country we should close the loopholes. Florida, not normally known as a raving liberal State, voted 72 percent in a public referendum to close the gun show loophole, and we're having trouble getting it done in Washington. That's not good. It's not going to kill the NRA to change its position. The gun manufacturers did, and I applaud them. They deserve a lot of credit. There have been--one of the most outstanding groups in this whole debate are the gun manufacturers, coming and saying, ``Okay, let's clean up this business. Let's have responsible, commonsense controls. We want people to be able to hunt; we want to support the rights of sportsmen; but we don't need that. We need to deal with this.'' So they have their responsibility. But so, too, does the entertainment industry. You can say if you start from their perspective, just like you can say if you start from the gun perspective, ``Guns don't kill people, people do.'' Right? If you start from the entertainment perspective, you can say, ``Well, we show these movies and we sell these video games in Europe and you don't have this level of violence.'' You can say that--in other words, from anybody else's perspective, you can always say this. But here is the thing. Start with the kids. We have more kids getting hurt and more kids hurting other kids. Start with the facts. And we now have over 300 studies that show that the volume of sustained exposure to violence through the media--and now increasingly through interactive video games--is so great that it desensitizes children dramatically to the impact of violence and the real consequences of it, and therefore makes the most vulnerable children more likely to go over the edge. Now, having said that, we have to find some commonsense things we can do. For example, you could change the whole advertising strategy of a lot of these games and other media outlets and not have a lot of the problems you have. But lots of other things can be done. I'm trying to make a larger point here. How we respond to this and whether we take on something really big and important like this and do what the Mothers and Students Against Drunk Driving did to drive down drunk driving; or do what the 10,000 business people did to hire 400,000 people off welfare so people wouldn't be just thrown in the streets--how we respond to this and whether we respond to this as one community coming together instead of pointing the finger at each other will define in large measure what kind of country we're going to be in the 21st century. And the same is true of Kosovo. What in the world have these two things got in common? Well, in both cases, there at least is some evidence that part of the problem was one group of people looking down on another group of people and getting to where they hated them and then getting to where they thought it was legitimate to take them out. And if you look all over the world today, from the Middle East to the Balkans, to Rwanda and Africa, to the still unresolved conflict in Northern Ireland, what is at the root of most of the world's problems on the edge of the 21st century? Is it that the Kosovar Albanians don't have as good computers as the Serbs? Are we fighting over some software secret in central Africa? Not on your life. The economics are bringing people together. That's [[Page 906]] one of the reasons we're going to get this thing done in Ireland this year. What is dividing people on the edge of this brave new brilliant high-tech interdependent world are the oldest demons of human society: our hatred and fear of people who are different from us. First, you're scared of them, then you hate them, then you dehumanize them, then it's okay to kill them. And isn't it ironic that we're sitting here a stone's throw from Silicon Valley, dreaming about the marvels of modern technology and at risk of being held hostage to the oldest, most primitive human designs? So you want to know why we're in Kosovo? Because it's in Europe, where we were pulled into two wars in the 20th century, and the cold war, and because we had the capacity to stand against that kind of ethnic cleansing and slaughter; and because when we couldn't get it done for 4 long years in Bosnia, there was a trail of 2\1/2\ million refugees and a quarter of a million people dead, and we still had to get in and put Humpty Dumpty back together again and tell people they had to stop killing each other because of their different religious and ethnic background. But I'm telling you, there are common threads to what is there--the hatred of those boys built up in Littleton, hatred looking up at the athletes, hatred in their minds looking down at the minorities. The hatred in what happened when that poor man, James Byrd, was murdered in Texas and his body was torn apart, hatred in what happened to Matthew Shepard in Wyoming. It's all the same thing. We're all scared. Not anybody in the world is not scared from time to time. How many days do you wake up in a good mood and how many days do you wake up in not such a good mood? Every human being has got a little scale inside. It's like the scales of justice and hope and fear. And some days, the scales are just perfectly in balance, some days they're just--you're crazy with hope and some days you're gripped with fear. And the more fearful you are, the more people who are different from you seem to present a threat. And here we are. Look at California. Look at San Francisco. Look at Seattle, where I was today. Look at the diversity of our population, racial and otherwise--religious, all the differences you can imagine--sexual orientation, the whole 9 yards. Look at all the differences in our population. In our dreams, all people get a chance to become what God meant for them to be and we pull together. In other words, we finally got a chance to be the country our founders said we ought to be when they knew darn well we weren't. I mean, when only white men with property could vote, they said all are created equal, and they knew what they were doing. These guys were not dummies. Every now and then, I go over to the Jefferson Memorial and read what Thomas Jefferson said, ``When I think of slavery, I tremble to think that God is just.'' He knew exactly what he was doing. They knew that this whole struggle would be sort of an endless effort to try to make real these ideals. And here we are about to do it. And are we going to let the whole thing go haywire because of the most primitive impulses in human society, both inside our country and beyond our borders? That man that blew up the Federal building in Oklahoma City, he was poisoned with hatred and a sort of blind irrational notion that if you worked for the Federal Government there was something inherently bad about you. And I believe the distinguishing characteristics of our country in the 21st century has to be that we constantly, consistently reaffirm that for all the differences among us--we don't have to like each other, but we have to respect each other. We have to tolerate each other, and we have to actively affirm each other's common humanity. And if you want all this modern technology to be put at the service of your children's dreams instead of terrorists and madmen, then you have got to say this is one thing America will stand for, overall, above all, beyond everything else. And that is what all these incidents have in common. We must not let the great promise of the modern world be undermined by the most ancient of hatreds. We cannot fundamentally alter human nature, but we can alter the rules by which all of us let our nature play out. And we can call forth our better selves. That is what we have worked for 6\1/2\ years to do. And you know as well as I do, if the economy works better it's easier to do. [[Page 907]] But when you go home tonight and you get up tomorrow and somebody says, ``Why in the world did you write a check and go to that thing?'' Tell them, ``Because I believe in the vision and the ideas that the country has followed in the last 6 years. We have a lot more to do, and most important of all, I really want America to be a community and a model to the world, because I want my children to have a future more like my dreams than the worst nightmares we see in the paper.'' We can do it, but not unless we work at it. Thank you, and God bless you. Note: The President spoke at 9:25 p.m. at a private residence. In his remarks, he referred to dinner host Walter Shorenstein; Bill Lockyer, State attorney general; Gov. Gray Davis of California and his wife, Sharon; Mayor Willie Brown of San Francisco; dinner cochairs Martin Maddaloni and Tom and Victoria O'Gara; Joseph J. Andrew, national chair, Andy Tobias, treasurer, and Beth Dozoretz, national finance chair, Democratic National Committee; baseball legends Willie Mays and Hank Aaron and their wives, Mae and Billie, respectively; Tom Mauser, whose son, Daniel, was killed in the Columbine High School shooting by gunmen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold; gun control activist Steve Sposato and his daughter, Meghan; and Timothy McVeigh, who was convicted of the Oklahoma City Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing. This item was not received in time for publication in the appropriate issue. <DOC> [Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents] [frwais.access.gpo.gov] [Page 907-908] Pages 895-960 Week Ending Friday, May 21, 1999 The President's Radio Address May 15, 1999 Good morning. In the past few weeks, ever since that terrible day in Littleton, people all across America have searched their souls and searched for solutions to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again and to reduce the level of violence to which our children are exposed. Last Monday, at our White House strategy session on children and violence, representatives of every sector of society agreed on one fundamental fact: Making progress requires taking responsibility by all of us. That begins at home. Parents have a duty to guide children as they grow and to stay involved in their lives as they grow older and more independent. Educators have a responsibility to provide safe learning environments, to teach children how to handle conflicts without violence, and how to treat all young people, no matter how different, with respect. They also need to teach them how to get counseling or mental health services if they're needed. Communities have a responsibility to make sure that there is a village, as the First Lady said, that supports all its children-- especially those who don't get their needs met at home. And the community needs to do more to get our kids involved in working with each other and serving the community, not being isolated from it. And here in Washington, we have a responsibility. We've got a responsibility to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and children. There's a broad national consensus on that point. At the White House conference, the gun manufacturers agreed that we need commonsense approaches. Everybody agrees except the U.S. Senate. For example, everyone knows we need a real law to close the deadly gun show loophole, through which thousands, indeed, tens of thousands of guns are sold each year without background checks--even though they'd have to have a background check to be sold in a gun store. Now, the Senate declined to pass that bill. Even worse, the Senate's substitute bill is riddled with new loopholes, permitting convicted felons to get guns at pawn shops, no questions asked; and making it harder, not easier, for law enforcement to trace guns used in crimes. If the Senate wants to fix the problem, it should fix the problem, not make it worse. The American people deserve better. They know law-abiding citizens don't need loopholes in our gun laws, only criminals do. I sure hope that in the coming weeks the Senate will step up to its responsibility and do the right thing by our children. I've always said the entertainment industry must do its part, too. In 1993, shortly after I became President, I traveled to Hollywood and spoke there to members of the community about their responsibility. I said then, ``You have the capacity to do good, to help change the way we behave, the way we think of ourselves; examine what together you might do to help us rebuild the frayed bonds [[Page 908]] of community, to give children nonviolent ways to resolve their frustrations.'' After 6 years of work, the entertainment industry is helping parents to limit children's exposure to violence, working with the administration on a voluntary rating system for television and the V- chip to enforce it, and on parental screening for the Internet and ratings for all Internet games sales. But there is still too much violence on our Nation's screens, large and small. Too many creators and purveyors of violence say there is nothing they can do about it. And there are still too many vulnerable children who are steeped in this culture of violence, becoming increasingly desensitized to it and to its consequences and, therefore, as studies show, hundreds of them more liable to commit violence themselves. By the age of 18, the typical American will see 40,000 dramatized murders. There are those who say they can or should do nothing about this. But I believe they're wrong. Every one of us has a role to play in giving our kids a safe future. And those with greater influence have greater responsibility. We should see movies and music, TV programs, video games, and advertising for them made by people who made them as if their own children were watching. Members of the entertainment community can make a big difference. Today I want to issue three specific challenges to them. First, the whole industry should stop showing guns in any ads or previews children might see. Second, I challenge theater and video store owners all across our country to enforce more strictly the rating systems on the movies they show, rent, and sell. You should check ID's, not turn the other way as a child walks unchaperoned into an R-rated movie. Third, I challenge the movie industry to reevaluate its entire ratings systems, especially the PG rating, to determine whether it is allowing too much gratuitous violence in movies approved for viewing by children. Our administration is fighting to do all we can to protect children. The entertainment industry should do everything it can, too. Across America people are coming together, saying, ``Yes, together we can change this culture of violence; together we can give our children a safer future and a culture of values we'll be proud to pass on to future generations.'' We can do it together. Thank you. Note: The address was recorded at 3:26 p.m. on May 14 in the library at the Rainier Club in Seattle, WA, for broadcast at 10:06 a.m. on May 15. The transcript was made available by the Office of the Press Secretary on May 14 but was embargoed for release until the broadcast. <DOC> [Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents] [frwais.access.gpo.gov] [Page 908] Pages 895-960 Week Ending Friday, May 21, 1999 Radio Remarks on the Observance of Armed Forces Day May 15, 1999 Armed Forces Day was created in 1950 as a way for Americans to thank our men and women in uniform for their service and sacrifice. Our Nation
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