[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book I)]
[June 30, 1995]
[Pages 986-990]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks on Receiving the Abraham Lincoln Courage Award in Chicago
June 30, 1995

    Thank you so much, Mike Robbins. Thank you for your presentation. 
Thank you much more for your courage and for your willingness to come 
back to work after being wounded 11 times. A lot of Americans wouldn't 
do that, and we appreciate you for doing it.
    We thank you, Officer Jackson, Officer Bubalo. We thank the 
representatives of the Fraternal Order of Police who are here from 
Chicago and the State of Illinois, Bill Nolan and Sgt. Keith Turney. 
Thank you, Commander O'Shield. I hope you don't decide to run for 
President anytime soon after that reception you got when you were 
introduced--[laughter]--or mayor or anything else. [Laughter]
    I want to thank Mark Karlin for what he said and for his long and 
often lonely battle against handgun violence.
    The First Lady and I are delighted to be here with you today. I do 
want to introduce just one person of the many who came with me today 
because he carries on our part of the bargain fighting for law 
enforcement and against violence in Washington, Under Secretary of the 
Treasury Ron Noble, who is back here with me. Ron, stand up. Thank you 
very much.
    I thank Superintendent Rodriguez for his outstanding leadership. 
Senator, thank you for what you said and for what you have done. To all 
the other distinguished officials who are here, I thank you. I want to 
say a special word of thanks to the mayor for his leadership and for his 
willingness to roll up his sleeves and actually solve problems.
    You know, I like listening to the mayor talk because he never tries 
to be flowery, he just says what he has to say. [Laughter] But when

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he gets finished talking, you don't have any doubt about what he just 
said. [Laughter] And I like it because he's interested in doing things 
and giving other people the power to do things and bringing people 
together. That means a lot to me. We need more in Washington of what you 
have here in Chicago and in this Austin neighborhood.
    I thank the other dignitaries who are here. Congressman, Bishop, 
thank you for coming. And ladies and gentlemen, I want to say a special 
word of thanks to some young people who are here from the ``I Have A 
Dream'' Program and the AmeriCorps volunteers who are working with them. 
Where are they? They're over there.
    The ``I Have A Dream'' Program was founded in New York by a friend 
of Hillary's and mine named Eugene Lange, who believed that if you would 
reach young people in grade school and tell them that if they'd stay in 
school and stay off drugs and make their grades, you'd guarantee them 
that they could go all the way through college. That's what the ``I Have 
A Dream'' Program is about. And those kids in this neighborhood are part 
of that, and our national service program is helping. And I'm proud of 
    Ladies and gentlemen, it's already been said by Officer Robbins and 
others, but really this award ought to be given today to the officer who 
was killed here just a few months ago, Daniel Doffyn, and to his 
partner, and to Mike Robbins and his partner, and to all those who are 
willing to put their lives upon the line.
    You heard the superintendent say it a moment ago, but Officer Doffyn 
and his partner, Officer Bubalo, were standing just where we stand 
today, getting ready to go to work, when they heard a call on the radio 
that said men were breaking into an apartment building just across the 
street. They were rookie officers who answered the call. They found gang 
members from another neighborhood who had come to disrupt this 
neighborhood. They were stopping one of the suspects when another came 
upon them. He murdered Officer Doffyn. He critically wounded his 
partner. He did it with a TEK-9 semiautomatic, one of the weapons banned 
in the 1994 crime bill.
    Officer Doffyn was like me in one important respect, the most 
important of all: He had a daughter, an 8-year-old daughter who now will 
have to live with the memory of her father and his sacrifice.
    When we talk about these issues and the decisions we ought to make 
on them, we're a long way, in Washington, DC, from the streets of Austin 
neighborhood. We'd be a lot better off if we had to vote on issues in 
front of the place where the police officer was killed.
    I know that even from the worst tragedies, some good can spring. 
After the awful, awful bombing in Oklahoma City a lot of the meanness 
went out of America, and we all began to ask ourselves again, what can 
we do to do a better job for our country? What can we do to reach across 
the lines that are dividing us? What can we do to minimize the hatred 
and extremism in our own country?
    I'm told that after Officer Doffyn was killed, children from Howe 
Elementary School across the street came to the police station to make 
sure their favorite police officers were safe, and that some of the 
officers took the children home in squad cars to reassure them and make 
sure they were okay. Now, outside this neighborhood that might surprise 
some people, but I've learned enough from the mayor and others about 
what you're doing here to know that you've been working for a long time 
to build that kind of community. Your mission statement--I wish every 
neighborhood in America had a mission statement--your mission statement 
says you want to make your neighborhood safe, prosperous, secure, 
productive, and proud. That's what I want for America.
    In this neighborhood the words ``community'' and ``policing'' mean 
the same thing because the men and women of the 15th are the community 
and they understand that the best way to lower the crime rate is to 
prevent crime, to stop it from happening in the first place. They are 
working with you to set up a drug court to help people who get in 
trouble find a way to get out of trouble and go on to productive lives, 
not just go to prison. They are working with you to reach out to your 
children, to help them stay off drugs and stay out of gangs. They are 
watching out for you as you watch out for one another.
    So many of you have taken responsibility for this neighborhood and 
your lives, and you are getting results. Crime is down across the board. 
I drove through these streets today and I saw homes, schools, 
businesses, churches, police stations, all doing their part to keep you 
safe and pull you together.

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    Despite the sadness that we all feel today, you should all be very 
proud. And you should be committed to keeping this community strong and 
to saving the lives and futures of these children.
    When I ran for President, I promised that I would do everything I 
could to help you in this effort. Part of it was trying to restore the 
economy and bring opportunities to places that had been too long denied 
them, which is why I worked with the mayor and others to put an 
empowerment zone in Chicago, to try to prove that we could bring jobs 
and incomes and a future to people. But a big part of it was just trying 
to restore a simple sense of security to people who work hard and obey 
the law and are doing the best with their own lives.
    The mayor referred to this, and Senator Simon knows it well because 
he was there for the whole time, but the Congress actually debated a 
crime bill for 6 years without doing anything about it, because there 
was always some political objection on the right or the left for getting 
together and doing something that would make a lot of sense at the 
grassroots level a long way from Washington. Well, we passed the crime 
bill, and it was largely written by the police officers of America. And 
it had a requirement that we put 100,000 more police on the street, a 20 
percent increase of people walking the beat, working in the 
neighborhoods, helping to prevent crime in the first place.
    I can tell you, that bill just passed late last year, but we are 
already--we already have given law enforcement agencies in this country 
enough grants to hire more than 20,000 new police. We're moving ahead of 
schedule to do that.
    The second thing we did was to try and give law enforcement and 
community officials the tools they need to help save kids, to give 
children something to say yes to as well as something to say no to. The 
law enforcement people in this country knew that we needed tougher 
punishment, we needed greater protection. We passed the ``three strikes 
and you're out'' law. We passed the law strengthening the death penalty 
provisions, especially for people who kill law enforcement officers in 
the line of duty. But we also did what the law enforcement officers told 
us to do, which is to give them and community activists the tools to 
reach children early, to get them on the right path in life, to give 
them schools and jobs and opportunities and a future.
    And yes, we took on the gun issue. And I want to say a little more 
about that in a minute, but it's been mentioned already. We passed the 
Brady law, which requires people to wait 5 days while we check the 
criminal and mental health histories of people who want to buy handguns, 
unless there is a computerized instant record check in place in a State. 
And we did ban 19 kinds of assault weapons and any identical copycats 
that might be made of them, for the obvious reasons you know.
    I'll never forget--Mayor, you probably remember this--but we came 
here in 1994, and we sat at a panel in which people from your health 
care institutions told us that the mortality rate from gunshot wounds 
was dramatically increasing because the average victim had more bullets 
in his body when they showed up at the hospital. Why? Because of these 
assault weapons. I learned that in a hearing in Chicago from people who 
make a living working in emergency rooms, seeing people like Officers 
Robbins and Jackson every day. So yes, we did that.
    And as we remember Officer Doffyn, I say there is at least one more 
thing we must do. Today I am announcing support for legislation that 
will ban armor-piercing bullets of all kinds.
    Senator Simon referred to what we are trying to keep--and he's 
right, we do ban some kinds of armor-piercing bullets, thanks to him and 
others. But you need to know the law is written, in my opinion, in the 
wrong way. Today the law is written to ban ammunition based on what it's 
made of. If it contains certain materials, then it's off the street. 
Now, that's a good thing, but it's not good enough because clever people 
have figured out how to design ammunition made from common materials 
that do just as much damage. This legislation will change that. It will 
see to it that we judge ammunition not based on what it's made of but 
based on how much harm it can do. That should be the test. And the test 
should be simple and straightforward. If a bullet can rip through a 
bulletproof vest like a knife through hot butter, then it ought to be 
history. We should ban it.
    Many Members of the United States Congress, Senator Moynihan, 
Senator Biden, Bradley, Kohl, Congressman Schumer from New York, have 
joined Senator Simon and others for a long time in trying to deal with 
these issues. Now, I know this will be controversial among some, just 
like the Brady bill was, just like the assault weapons ban was. But I 
want to tell

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you something, folks. There's a reason that I decided that I should be 
the first President ever to take on these issues while in office rather 
than later. [Laughter] And I say that--I'm grateful for the support 
we've received from former Presidents. I'm grateful that Ronald Reagan 
stood up for the Brady bill and Jim Brady. I am grateful that President 
Bush resigned from the NRA when they called Federal officials 
``jackbooted thugs.'' We should applaud them. [Applause] We should 
applaud them.
    But I want you to know the reason I decided to do it, apart from 
just--first of all, I was sick and tired of reading stories about young 
children in tough neighborhoods who were straight-A students, being 
gunned down standing by a bus stop. I got tired of reading that. You 
know, I got tired of reading all these high school kids and junior high 
school kids thinking about what kind of funerals they were going to have 
because they knew so many kids that had been shot. I got tired of 
reading about it.
    But there's another reason. I come from a place where more than half 
the people live in towns of 10,000 or less, where more than half the 
people have never been to a city as big as Chicago, and more than half 
the people have a hunting or a fishing license or both. When I was--long 
before I was a teenager, I had fired a .22 at cans and birds in bird 
season. I grew up thinking of guns as a part of my culture and not 
something evil or bad that would ever be used to kill people.
    I understand the kind of folks who have formed the basis of a lot of 
the opposition to this gun legislation because they never see what you 
live with every day. They literally don't experience it. So I understood 
that. But you know, what my position is, is very different. I don't 
think this is--I don't think the Brady bill or the assault weapons ban 
or the cop-killer bullet legislation is about the right to keep and bear 
arms. I think it's about whether we as Americans are willing, those of 
us who are law-abiding, to undergo some minor inconveniences so we can 
solve our problems together and keep our kids alive and have a safer 
future and be fair to our police officers. That's what this is about.
    And it's interesting, you know, most of the people who oppose the 
Brady bill and oppose the assault weapons ban, they don't mind walking 
through an airport metal detector. But I'm old enough to remember when 
those metal detectors were first put in when you walk through an 
airport. Now, we don't think about it today, do we? Even though most of 
us would never consider carrying a gun on an airplane, much less a bomb, 
we go through the metal detectors, and we don't think anything about it. 
Why? Because it is a minor sacrifice to get on a safe airplane.
    There was a decision made by the Supreme Court the other day that's 
somewhat controversial, but I support it. I want to tell you about it 
because it's the same point. The Supreme Court said it was all right for 
a school district to require young people who wanted to be on the 
football team to undergo drug testing, not because we think most kids 
are bad--they're not--not because most of them are using drugs--they're 
not--but because drugs are tearing the heart out of the children of 
America. It is a privilege to play on a sports team or be in the school 
band or do anything else like that, and it is a minor inconvenience for 
young people to take a stand to help to get drugs out of our schools.
    Now, that's what I think about this. So I say to all the people who 
own guns and don't feel like they're ever going to do anything wrong and 
just want us to punish criminals, it is no big deal if you have to wait 
a few days to get the next handgun. You will survive. And it's a good 
    And I say to all the people who love to hunt and shoot in shooting 
contests, you will be able to do it, and you will find a way to do it 
even without the TEK-9's. It's worth it to get the Uzis out of the high 
schools and off the streets, and the bullets out of the bodies of these 
police officers we celebrate today. It is worth it. It is worth it.
    Nobody is interfering with your right to hunt or to enter into any 
kind of sporting contest or to do whatever else you want to do. But this 
is a minor, minor change that's good for all of us. And sooner or later, 
those of us who live in disparate areas of the country with different 
experiences have got to realize we have common obligations to the common 
good. And everybody in the smallest rural hamlet in my State is going to 
be better off if kids don't get killed on the streets of Chicago and 
police officers don't get gunned down because we got rid of assault 
weapons and we got rid of cop-killer bullets. We're going to be better 
off if that happens.

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    And you know, let me just say one other thing to everybody who 
objects to this today. I'm almost 50 years old. I have never seen a 
deer, a duck, or a wild turkey wearing a Kevlar vest in my life. You do 
not need--[laughter]--you do not need these bullets.
    So I ask you all to support this. I ask you to oppose the efforts of 
the lobbies in Washington to lift the ban on assault weapons. I ask you 
to oppose their efforts to roll back the crime bill; oppose their 
efforts to keep us from getting all these horrible police-killing 
bullets out of our lives; and, as Senator Simon said, oppose their 
efforts to indiscriminately say all felons can have their guns back.
    We live in the freest nation the world has ever known, because over 
219 years we have found ways to agree on discipline, restraint, and 
order, to preserve our liberty. And all, all systems of discipline, 
restraint, and order affect the law-abiding and the lawless equally. 
That is the point.
    So I ask you all today to remember that. I accept this award today, 
even though I don't feel like I deserve it, because I just did my duty. 
And I knew because of my childhood and the life I live and the State I 
governed what the issues were, what the stakes were, and what the forces 
in play were in this battle over the Brady bill, the assault weapons 
ban, and the cop-killer bullet issue.
    Most of the people on the other side of this issue are good people. 
But they don't have your experience. And it is time for them to think 
about you. It is time for them to make minor concessions so that you can 
have major advances in safety, in security, in the future of your 
children, in the security of your police officers, in the Austin 
neighborhood, in Chicago, Illinois, and throughout the United States of 
America. It is time for us to pull together on this issue and do the 
right thing.
    Abraham Lincoln, who saved our Republic, said something very 
important in his first inaugural. When the country was coming apart at 
the seams over the issue of slavery and we were headed smack-dab into a 
Civil War, and when half the people in the country hated him and he'd 
been elected President with only 39 percent of the vote, he had the 
understanding to say, ``We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be 
    So I say to you today, my friends: Let us stand up for the future of 
our children. Let us stand up for the security of our police forces and 
their ability to work with us. And let us say to those who disagree, we 
ask you for a minor contribution to a major public good. Let us not be 
enemies but friends.
    Thank you, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 10:05 a.m. at the 15th District Police 
Headquarters. In his remarks, he referred to Mike Robbins, Talmadge 
Jackson, and Milan Bubalo, Chicago police officers wounded in the line 
of duty; Bill Nolan, president, Chicago Fraternal Order of Police; Sgt. 
Keith Turney, chairman of the trustees, Illinois State Fraternal Order 
of Police; Leroy O'Shield, commander, 15th District, Chicago Police 
Department; Mark Karlin, president, Illinois Council Against Handgun 
Violence, which sponsored the award; Matt Rodriguez, Chicago 
Superintendent of Police; and Bishop Shepard Little, Church of God in