THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release June 4, 1999
ABC GOOD MORNING AMERICA SPECIAL
ON SCHOOL VIOLENCE
The Cabinet Room
7:05 A.M. EDT
Q All right. Let me turn to the situation of kids and guns. The House, in the next few weeks, is going to start debating a bill that includes some gun control measures that were passed by the Senate. And political points will be scored by both sides in that debate.
But you and I know, dont we, really, that its not going to make a damn bit of differenceonly on the marginsin the way kids get guns.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I dont necessarily agree with that. I think the Brady Bill has made a real difference; having the background checks matters. We know that 250,000 people, from the time I signed the Brady Bill in 94 until last year, were unable to get handguns. We know just since the Insta-Check went in last year, another 36,000 people have been denied the right to get handguns. So closing the gun show loophole matters. Doing a background check for some other things I recommended, a background check for explosives as wellvery important in the Littleton casethese things will matter.
Now, does more need to be done? I think so. I think that more does need to be done. The Speaker of the House agreed that we ought to make it unlawful for people under 21 to have handguns, and I was encouraged by that. And thats, of course, something Im supporting.
Q But even with the checkswhat you cant get in the front door, so many people go around and get in the back door. Forty percent of the gun sales in this country are unregulated; nobody checks them. There are a group of kids that youre going to meet in the next half-hour who are going to tell you, if I want to get a gun, I can go get one, and nobodys going to know about it, and Ill have it within a week.
THE PRESIDENT: Thats true, but the more we move to make such transactions, and possession unlawful. And the more we move against people who perpetrate them, the more success we will have.
You know, its funnyeven the NRA says, well, we ought to prosecute crimes. Well, we ought to make the right things crimes, and we ought to make it unlawful for children to possess these weapons; we ought to make it unlawful for people to sell them to them or to transfer to them; and we ought to close the loopholes in the law. And as we do that, we will make a difference.
Also, keep in mind that the Littleton example is not the only example that we have to be mindful of. There are 13 children a day who are shot in America, who lose their lives, in ones and twos on the streets.
Q Theres a Littleton every day.
THE PRESIDENT: So we have to makeanything we can do to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and kids, we ought to do.
Q But when you went to Littleton, a friend of yours who supports you on gun control said to me in the last 48 hours, the President, because, as he said, Littleton has seared the national consciencethe President had a chance to roar on gun control and he meowedand that was a friend of yours. There are very basic measures that could be taken that people agree on. We register every automobile in America
THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely.
Q -- we dont register guns. Thats a step that would make a difference.
THE PRESIDENT: Look, lets join the real world here. You want to have an honest conversation? Lets have an honest conversation. I am the first President who ever took on the NRA. I got my party in Congress to stand with me on the Brady Bill, which has made a difference, on the assault weapons ban. We are now in the process of closing loopholes in the assault weapons ban.
What happened to them when they did that? In 1994, we lost between 12 and 20 members of the House of Representatives because they were targeted by the NRA for standing up for the lives of our children. Now, wait a minute. You talk about roaring and meowingthen I came forward with this legislation. Did this roar through the Senate? No. We passed a bill causing the gun show loophole by 51-50 because of the Vice President of the United States. Did the House of Representatives make a priority out of what was passed in the Senate and pass it right through? No. They went home before taking action. Why? To give the NRA time to lobby them, to water down what was passed.
Now, I have made it perfectly clear that I want to get what was passed in the Senate, passed in the House. Then we will come back and try to pass some more things, because Littleton did sear the conscience of the nation. The question is not whether we have seared the conscience of the nation; the question is whether, on gun issues, whether the people who now constitute the House and the Senate will pass what is sensible.
And I intend to do that. But for you to say that I shouldnt take what I can get becauseand instead I should ask for things that I am absolutely positive will be defeated in the Congress, is quite wrong. And to ignore the factand whoever you talked about that you dont want to out hereto ignore the fact that my administration and my party took on this issue when no one else would and paid a huge price for itand lost control of the House of Representatives in all probability because of itand to pretend that this is an easy thing now because Littleton happened, is wrong. We are working very hard to pass sensible measures that will make a difference, that will save childrens lives.
You say they wont save all lives. You say there are stronger measures that could be taken. You are absolutely right. You have no evidence that they could pass in this Congress.
Now, I will do my best to advocate more, but I am doing itand Ive made it clear. I want to do this in sequence. I want to pass what weve passed in the Senate in the House. Then I want us to come back with a second set of recommendations. I intend to keep working on this. I think this is going to take years. We havethe Congress is out of touch with the American people.
Q But let me come back to you on that. The polls
I believereally, the polls have shown that this country would accept registration of firearms. And yet we dont do that, and were not fighting about regulation of guns
THE PRESIDENT: Thats because --
Q -- you regulate every other consumer product in America.
THE PRESIDENT: But you want to have a candid conversation. The reason is, this Congress came to power after the 1994 elections because in critical races the people who voted for more modest things, like the Brady Billwhich the polls showed the voters supportgot beat. They got beat, Charlie.
Q But hasnt the NRA won the debate at that point?
Once we say
THE PRESIDENT: No.
Q -- its politically impossible
THE PRESIDENT: No.
Q -- we cant do it
THE PRESIDENT: I didnt say it was
Q -- we wont propose it, hasnt the NRA
THE PRESIDENT: No.
Q -- basically framed the debate at that point?
THE PRESIDENT: No. I didnt say it was politically impossible. You say I should be recommending more; I ask you to look at the vote in the Senate, which historically has been more willing to deal with this than the House, and look at what we passed. We passed closing the gun show loopholewhich, I dont care what you say, or my friend says these kids say, is a big dealwe passed it by one vote. One vote.
And youre saying, well, why didnt you recommend something more sweeping? And I told you that I intend to recommend further measures, but Id like to pass what we have passed to the Senate, because it makes a difference. The things that we passed in the Senate will make a difference.
Should we do more? Should people ought to have to register guns like they register their cars? Do I think that? Of course, I do. Of course, I do. Nowbut I tell you, the American people may have one opinion, but they elected the Congress and the Congress doesnt have that opinion.
Im going to do my best to move the Congress and the people can move them, but we can onlyhow foolish would it be for me to be debating this issue when these things are before the Congress, they can save childrens lives, and I should blow by them because theyre not enough? I dont think so.
Q I want to take you to the other room. There are some young kids in there who want to ask you about other things, about the glamorization of violence in the media, those kinds of thingsabout parental responsibility. Well get to all of that. Come on in the other room, well do that.
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
Q Lets go to Diane in the Roosevelt Room.
* * * * *
Q Good morning, America. Im Charles Gibson.
Q And Im Diane Sawyer.
And we continue our special two-hour broadcast on kids and guns from the White House. We have come into the Roosevelt Room, the President has accompanied us and we have been joined by the First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton. And for the next 30 to 35 minutes or so, were going to broadcast without commercial interruption, talking with a group of high school students that we have gathered from around the country about this subject.
Q And they are experts in some of the themes that we have all been talking about: accessibility of kids to guns, parenting, and whether this is a culture that glamorizes violence and whether thats what we want or not. So Charlie and I are going to take our seats in the Roosevelt Room bleachers here, and Im going to start with Albert Smith, because I know you wanted to say something or ask something.
I should tell you, Mr. President and Mrs. Clinton, that Alberts sister was wounded in gunfire in Evanston, Illinois. Shes all right now, but he has some pretty passionate feelings about all of this.
So, Albert, you begin.
ALBERT: Well, Mr. President, I listened to your interview and I couldnt helpwell, Im encouraged by the fact that youre working hard to pass some gun legislation, but how can I be sure that that legislation will prevent accidents like my sister being shot and various friends of mine? How can I be sure of that? And how spectacular is this legislation and what makes it different?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think, first of all, we cant say that any one law will make a difference. But I think if you look at the school shootingsand I think all of you know this, but we ought to say this to Americathis is not just about school shootings, although theyre very important, but 13 children are killed every day by guns on the streets, in the neighborhoods and various circumstances.
So I think there are basically three problems. You have more kids that are kind of at risk of violence. You have a culture that desensitizes and glorifies violence, and desensitizes people to it. And its way too easy to get guns.
And so what I think we have to do is to work on all three things. And weve got to pass as much legislation as we can that makes itkeeps guns out of the wrong hands, and basically makes it harder for kids and harder for criminals to get guns. And this legislation will do that. It will help us close some of the loopholes; it will help us strengthen the background checks. It will also do something that was very important at Littleton and will become increasingly important with the Internet giving so much information to kidsit will put a lot of our background requirements for guns into explosives, too, which I think are very important. After the Littleton thing, I think we can all see that.
But I cant guarantee that. There are over 200 million guns in American society now, in a country of about 260-plus billion people. But we can make it a lot harder, and we can dramatically reduce the chances that such things will occur.
Q If I could, Mr. President, I would like to play a short clip here, because I want to ask the students about something, and Id love to have Mrs. Clinton talk to this as well.
We keep talking about legislation, but what about you in schools? Reading through the notes, I was so surprised how many of you have known that a kid, a friend sometimes, had a gun in school, but you said you werent sure youd tell anybody about it.
Let me just show you a young manhes a freshman, and he travels around the country showing how easy it is to walk into school carrying not gun, but guns. I want to play this clip.
(A video is shown.)
Q Twelve total guns. He does it as a warning to students and to teachers that it can be done without you being able to spot it, which raises this question I want to ask all of you. Its called snitching, as we know, but how do you feelwill you all be willing to take responsibility if you hear someone threatening something, if you see somebody with a gun, telling an adult?
And then, Mrs. Clinton, Id love to know what youd like to say to them about that.
Q If you saw a friend with a gun in school, how many of you would tell an authority?
STUDENT: Now I would.
Q Really, truly, truly, truly. Would you have two months ago, three months ago?
Q Trey faced this, as youll find out in just a few moments. Mrs. Clinton?
MRS. CLINTON: I think thats a very important question, because when we talk about dealing with this issue were really asking everybody to take responsibility. And I know that its hard. Ive been in lots of settings with lots of kids, talking to them. You know, sometimes you dont know whether to take somebody seriously. Somebody says that theyre really mad or theyre going to kill themselves or kill somebody elseits sometimes hard to know whether theyre just blowing off steam or whether theres something more there. But I think we ought to err on the side of caution.
And I was glad to see all your hands go up and I was glad you were honest enough to say that a couple of months ago that might not have been the way you would have felt. Because were really going to have to look to young people also, not just adults and not just people in government positions, but everybody to figure out what were going to do about this and to be more thoughtful and really try to respond.
And, more than that, if somebody is doing this, that person needs some help and needs some intervention or some supervision, or needs somebody to try to give them some guidance that they may not have otherwise.
Q Anybody here disagree and think you shouldnt be doing it? Go ahead.
CHRISSY: My name is Chrissy and Im from Kennedy High School. Im a leadership training institute student. I was wondering what actions you think as a student that we can take in our community to help gun control further?
MRS. CLINTON: Well, I think there are a lot of things that you can do. On Mothers Day we took a pledge that I hope everybody would take, and I hope that a lot of parents listening would take it, too. I think that young people, especially teenagers, not to give any child unsupervised access to a firearm; not to go into homes, or let your younger siblings go into homes where you know guns are and are not safely stored and taken care of.
And I know this sounds like, you know, the nosey mother routine, but I think every parentand I would suggest older teenagers, like yourselves, you need to find out whats in the homes youre going to. You guys are going to a party, make sure there are no guns around; make sure that the parents there keep them under lock and key if they have them. If you own a gun or you know people who do, make sure its locked up and stored without the ammunition. In fact, make it stored where the ammunition is stored separately.
And then I believe that there is a lot of work that young people can do in schools through peer mediation and counseling to try to help solve problems, but I also think your voices need to be heard on this gun legislation debate.
You know, weve made some progress in the last several years with the Brady Bill and some of the bans on assault weapons, but we have a lot of work to do. And theres no reason why a lot of you who are about to be or already are 18 cant make sure your voices are heard on that, too.
THE PRESIDENT: If I could just say one thing, to go back to put the two questions together, there are some schools, some high schools, which have hotlines which young people can call if other students bring guns to school, and they know two things if they call. They know, number one, that the children will not be outed, their identities wont be disclosed if they call, and, number two, that some authority will check on the presence of the gun in the school that day.
So I think thats really important. If its a problem in schools throughout the country, its a specific thing that some schools have used with great success.
Q Mr. President, if I could ask you, members of gun organizations say that the ability is there to do something about kids -- 6,000 kids in the last two years in schools found to have guns, but, in fact, only 13 were prosecuted for it. Do you think there should be more prosecutions, and do you agree?
THE PRESIDENT: I dont know. You know, I dont think
all those kids, the reason they know that and the only reason they know that is that since Ive been President, we instituted a zero tolerance for guns in schools, so the kids were sent home if they had the guns.
Now, its up to the local prosecutors to decide whether to prosecute them. But you should know that the general argument that prosecutions are down is simply not true. And federal prosecutions are up by 30 percent of serious crimes, and overall gun prosecutions, state and federal, are up. And gun-related crimes are down.
This is a special problemproblems of violence against children by guns is a special problem that, in my view, you can make the prosecution argument. We ought to make it harder to get guns, we ought to deal with the culture and we ought to deal with the schools and the communities and help the parents and the kids do more.
Q I want to call on Leeanne Dews if I can, because you had your hand up. And, first of all, Leeanne, can I just tell the President and Mrs. Clinton that your sister was killed in Pearl, Mississippi.
LEEANNE: Yes. You had said something about zero tolerance in the schoolsthen why isnt it mandatory for metal detectors and police security at all schools?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I thinklet me say, generally we have not had a federal law that requires schools to do metal detectors, but what we do is we provide funds every year to help schools buy the security equipment. And I believewhen I saw that young man there take the 12 guns out of his clothing, I thought maybe we should do more in that regard.
A lot of schools are, for obvious reasons, reluctant to have metal detectors. But I think that the schools that have them have not had these instances, basically because you cant get inat least inside the school.
Q Im interested to know what percentage of you, since you all live with this problem every day, what percentage of you would be willing to accept metal detectors at your schools. And Im going to take this a step further in a minute.
There is a countyweve got a little piece and I want you to take a look at it. Its a piece about a county, Bibb County, Georgia. And in Bibb County, its the largest county in Georgiaits never had a gun incident in schools. But they have police walking into classrooms. Take a look at this piece of videotape and you tell me what you think of it.
(A video is shown.)
Q Now, theyre willing to sacrifice that. Theres pictures of police walking and interrupting classes, checking students during class. Are you willing to go that far?
KATHRYN: My name is Kathryn Long, Im from Kensington, Maryland. I know that at my school, after the Littleton incident, I was very interested in what my principal would do about it, and he was very calm about it. He focused on communication in how he talked to us, and that communication was important. And that made me feel safer.
I know that at my school, we dont have anything close to that much security. Theyve never had a gun at their school, but neither have we. And I know that at my middle school, theres a lot of security and I felt kind of really trapped in, and that was when I rebelled against it. And Im not quite sure if making all teenagers feel like villains because there are a couple that brought guns, that thats a quick fix to the solution.
And maybe in the meantime, that would be important. But I dont think that you can lock down with police force. I think this is more of a societal issue. I mean, for years, kids have been teased and for ages kids have gone to school, but its now in 1999 and the 90s that theyre killing each other for it. I know that my parents generation, to rebel, they made love. (Laughter.) But we are rebelling by harming other people. I believe the media has a large part in it. And I disagree with things like metal detectors. There are ways to get around it.
Q Let me turn to Sarah McCarthy, who is here from McLean, Virginia. Do you have a comment on that?
SARAH: You, especially, Mrs. Clinton, have always encouraged It takes a village to raise a child, and that whole idea, and bringing that into the school system and having everybody involved. But especially watching that piece, how do you draw the line between bringing in security, which I think is definitely needed, such as metal detectors, searches, things like thatdrawing the lines, and then crossing over a line where students start to feel violated, their personal rights?
And I know there were threats at my school and, you know, there was extra security that day and everybody did pull together, but at the same time, having the policemen walking down the halls, in a way that brought in a fear that wasnt there before. And how do you draw the line between the two, between higher security and being safer and just personal rights?
MRS. CLINTON: I think thats a really important question, Sarah. And I think that weve got to go at this from so many different directions. The metal detector is much less intrusive than having random searches and the like. And I think each community has to do a very careful analysis of what they think is really going on with their kids. In places where metal detectors have been used, I think people feel that after a while it didnt become much of an intrusionits like getting on an airplane, we all do it these days.
But thats not the real problem. And so I think we have to both do what we can to protect kids, but weve got to do a better job ofgoing back to your point about creating a climate in which kids feel free to seek out help, kids feel that theyve got support if theyve got problems. Those guns are like a symbol of the problems theyre bringing to school. So we need to do more to try to go on many different fronts to deal with this problem.
Q I want to turn to the issue, if I can, of glamorization of violence in the American culture, because I know we have a war going on here about video games and the extent to which they contribute and dont. But before we do, as a footnote, Id like to ask Trey Carver, sitting next to me, just to tell for all the school officials out there, what happened when he says he went in to say he knew Thomas Solomon in Conyers, Georgia, and he felt there was trouble brewing.
TREY: I went in there at school, and at lunchtime we went outside to go use the pay phone and he took me in a corner and showed me a gun that he had in his book bag.
Q This is how long before the incident?
TRAY: I cant recall.
TREY: Yes, it was like a couple of weeks, probably.
And he showed it to me and said he was going to sell it after school. So later on that day, I was thinkingI thought to myself I needed to do the right thing, so I went to the office and said something about it. And then went and looked for him, but he had left school early. And the next day, they searched him, but they didnt find it on him. And a couple weeks later, he ended up shooting six people.
THE PRESIDENT: What do you think they should have done?
TREY: I think they should have done a lot more than they did. I think at least if they didnt, they should have called his parents and maybe had them maybe even look for it. I was going to ask you what more could be done than whats already done about a suspected gun at school.
THE PRESIDENT: These are questions that have also been asked in Colorado because of what was in the website, the kids website and other places. And I think its important that people like you, as I said, have a way to make these reports and then you know theyre going to be systematically followed up on, either by the school or the law enforcement.
I also think its important that when a young person like that is obviously in trouble, you not only try to get the gun away, but you try to figure out what the real problem is and what kind of help the kids need. And then its provided in some sort of systematic way. A lot of these kids, I am convinced, could be turned away from this before its too late if they could have been identified early enough.
And so I think we need a combination of, you know, go after the source of thego after the guns and all that, and trying to deal with the kids. And I thinkagain I would say, Ive been amazed in how many of these casesI dont know what the facts are in Pearl or in PaducahI do know in Springfield, Oregon, because I went out there to talk to the people there, that there are a lot of people who were really concerned about that young man before this happened.
So I thinkwere going to have a mental health conference with Mrs. Gore and the Vice President, Hillary and I are, in a few days, and were going to talk about what more can be done when the kids know that somebody is in trouble, to go really help them before this happens. Just like you knew. There should have been someplace else you could go where you would know not only would they try to get the gun, but there would be somebody all over that kid, in a positive way, trying to figure out what the deal was and how to help him move away from it.
NAOMI: Im Naomi, from Fairfax, Virginia. And when people were talking about, like the metal detectors, we dont have that in our school. But I think its justI think kids are kind of beingit makes them uncomfortable. But when you think about it, what else are we supposed to do? I mean, it is happening and the Littleton stuff, I mean, so many people were killed. I mean, youd think that wed be able to trust kids and that wouldnt be happening in schools where youre supposed to be getting an education, but it is. And I dont think theres anything else we can do. I mean, there is, but I think thats one of the precautions we have to takeis, yeah, were taking away some peoples sense of security, but, I mean, that might also be taken away when somebody gets killed, you know?
Q Can we tackle this issue of video games, Mortal Kombat, Doomviolence in the media? If somebody came to you and said tomorrow, were just going to stop the violent video games, were just going to cut them out and not do them in this country, what would you all say?
BRANDI: I agree, because if you look at it, I mean, Andy Griffith, for instance, was on for 30 years, you know, and there was nothing wrong with that, with a cop without a gun. You know, there was no violence. But now youve got the Roadrunner who dies every episode, bounces back 30 times. (Laughter.) And then youve got Mario who jumps off the cliff. Okay, hes dead, then he come back. Our child is violent because of that. And then youve got Barney, youve got Teletubbies, Sesame Street.
Society says, okay, theyre homosexual so we cant show that to our young children. (Laughter.) Like theyre going to know. (Laughter.) Come on, people. (Laughter) -- the shows that are teaching children good morals, but then you got shows up there like Mortal Kombat and something that says, if you want to kill your best friend, heres your chance. You know, hello, wheres the people who
Q Do you all think those games desensitize people?
ALBERT: I think they do. I think they definitely do. I mean, whenI have a nephew at home, and my nephew watches cartoons, and now, I look at those cartoons and Im like, gosh, these are pretty graphic.
Q Im going to come back at you about that point in a minute. Go ahead.
MISSY: Im Missy Jenkins from Paducah. And Ive noticed like when I watch something like that, something thats like withyou know, it doesnt affect me in any way. But there are some people that are a lot more sensitive. It makes it so much more of a reality to them, that they kind of use that as a way to take care of their problems.
Q Other countriesyou know, Japan has maybe more violent video games than we do, more violent videos, and yet, a handful of killings every year by guns. The difference is guns.
THE PRESIDENT: But lets go back to what Missy said. Im amazed that any of you said you were concerned about the video games, because most of the young people Ive talked to, theres a lot of support for tougher gun control and for better security and for more support services, but a lot of young people Ive talked to saythey say Im an old fogey when I talk about the movies and the video games.
But heres the point I want to make. I want to make the point Missy did. Most of the kids are fine and will be fine under any culture. Its true, they show them in Japan and Europe and they dont have the killings. But what do we know about America? We know that in America, number one, we know more and do more of it in the aggregate. The average 18-year-old has seen 40,000 murders, and 200,000 violent instances over the media, number onemore of it.
Number two, in our country our folks work harder, they travel more, they spend less time at homeon average, 22 hours a weekthan they did 30 years ago. Thats two years by the time you turn 18. Number three, its easier to get guns.
So if you have vulnerable kids, where the line between reality and fantasy blurs, they are more likely to be influenced by this. And thats something Id ask the rest of you to be sensitive to, because way over 90 percent of the kids are going to be fine, but it doesnt take many to change peoples lives forever in a bad way.
Q Im going to get a response here from Scott, because I happen to know that Scott is a Doom website master.
SCOTT: The problem I feel with basing all this on the violent video games and such, on these few incidents that have happened so far, is I know Doom alone has hadalmost a quarter of the country has played the game, pretty much. And theressomething like three or four of the people involved in shootings so far have been known to play the game, such as Eric Harris from Littleton, which theyve been making a big deal out of that, of him having the website based on Doom and making his own add-on levels and such.
And its just hard, I know, for, like, the entire rest of the people that play computer gamesbecause Ive spent the entire portion of this week on line talking to everyone else that I know of to get, like, what their reactions are for all this, and basically everyone just feels that because of these few people its all, like, weve all become bad guys in the entire situation because of us playing the violent video games and things like that .
STUDENT: I dont think you can blame the video games. I think its theI mean, when you get exposed to it you become numb to it but, I mean, the people that are doing it are the people at fault. I mean, they might have some psychological problems, but I dont think you can blame other things.
STUDENT: I think it starts with parenting.
Q But the parent is saying, what can we do?
STUDENTS: I have a question, actually for Mrs.
Clinton. Do you feel that its a lack of moral values and upbringing in our family that children are lashing out and acting this way? Do you hold the parents accountable for the actions that their children have committed in the Littleton incident, the Springfield incident? Or do you hold the children responsible for their own action, because these children were older than 14 years old?
MRS. CLINTON: Well, I think thats a hard question. I would just answer it like this: I think that our society as a whole has to take a hard look at personal responsibility and I think everyone has to be responsible for his or her own actions, so the individuals who have committed these crimes have to be held responsible. But we have to ask ourselves, what is it that leads a young person to feel so alienated, to feel so much hatred, to have unmet needswhether theyre psychological needs or whatever they might bethat would push them over the brink to do this.
So I think we have to hold people responsible. And I think that something that Bill said is really importantit is just a fact that parents are spending less time with kidsnow, thats a factthan they did 20 or 30 years ago.
STUDENT: The cost of living has gone up, youve got to work.
MRS. CLINTON: People are working harder, people are commuting more hours, people are really unable, they believe, to invest the kind of time that I think you need to invest in raising children.
So theres many social issues. And I hope that this national campaign against youth violence that were trying to get started here out of the White House is going to give people a chance to be engaged in a real honest conversation about what our priorities are and what we should spend our time doing.
THE PRESIDENT: Id like to ask a question. How many of you talked to your parents about this within three days of the Littleton shooting? I think thats very important, because one of the things that we dont knowyou asked Hillary a hard question about the parents of the children involvedobviously, I dont know them. Ive wondered so much. But I think its important that we understand that a lot of children are strangers in their own homes, and thatincluding kids that will never commit crimes. And somehow, I think weve really got to do something to rekindle, to give both the kids and the parents the courage to start talking to each other again, because I think it would minimize the chances of those things occurring.
TIFFANY: I have a comment on that. Im Tiffany from Littleton, Colorado, and I have heard from Robin Anderson that Dylans parents that day were concerned about him and that they thought something was troubling Dylan, and they said they wanted to talk to him that day after school. They were close with this son; it is not necessarily just his parents. He also did listen to violent music and did play violent video games, but so do many teenage boys. I dont think you can just pinpoint somebody by saying that. And I think that you have to dig deeper somehow and just make affection more apparent in society and have acceptance and just love. And I dont mean to sound like some hippie or something, but really, thatsI think the root of all of this is everybody just feels so negatively and doesnt know where they have an outlet.
THE PRESIDENT: I agree. Can I ask you one question? Id like to ask all of you a question about this. And again, all I know about this is what people like you have told me. That is, you know, Hillary and I, we watch the television, we talk to the families of the children that were killed, and some of the young people who are still hurt. But Id like for all of you to help us with this.
All the reports say that one of the things that drove these two young guys over the edge was that they felt that they were totally disrespected in the school; that they felt that there were groups that looked down on them and badmouthed them and tried to humiliate them; and that as a consequence, they not only wanted to get back at the people they thought had dissed them, but they were looking for somebody to look down on. And thats one of the things that made the African American young man a target.
How many of these kids do you think are violent because they think their contemporaries, kids treat them in a contemptible way?
TIFFANY: I dont think that they were treated that badly. I think thats been overexaggerated in a lot of instances. I think that it was more of like an absence of reality in their mind when they did it, because I dont think they were particularly out after anyonethey randomly shot people just from the lunchroom. I mean, they werent after anybody in specific.
Q Excuse me, Tiffany. I just want to take a break, let all of our stations know, all of you who are just joining us that we are continuing our two hours live at the White House with President Clinton, Mrs. Clinton, 40 students from around the country talking about kids and guns.
Mr. President, if I could, Ive heard people say there is some one thing that people in government and people in politics can do. They can say, we will not take contributions, political contributions, from anybody who is head of a company that puts out a violent movie, a movie that has a lot of shootings in it; we will not take contributions from companies that purvey violent video games; well just stop tomorrow. Willing to do it?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, would it have an impact? I dont think so, because then that would increase the relative influence of other peoples contributions. I dont know. I thinklet me just say this: Our administration has taken on not only the gun issue, we have taken on the entertainment issue ever since 93. And I would like to point out something. Your network and others have adopted a TV rating system, supported the V-chip, which is coming in all the new televisions. The Internet people have helped us with screening technologies for parents, with closing loopholes in the rating systems for the games. I mean, I think there has been some progress here.
I think the real problem weve got in the media is that this violence sells and I think that the rating system for the movies and television is a little too porous there. Again, I think its more the exposure of young people before the lines between fantasy and reality are fully clarified. Thats the one thing that I would say to the young man in the back that defended the Doom game.
Look, I like to go to action movies. I love movies. But what happens is, if you look at the aggregate amount of violenceand its not any one movie, its the aggregate amount that young people see, and in video games, participate inby the time theyre grown, in their younger years, when theyre most vulnerable, they are desensitized to the consequences of violence. There are over 300 studies which show this. This is not a matter of debate.
And I think the question is, what can we do to reduce the volume of violence to which our youngest people are exposed? And thats why were doing what we can do on this, on the entertainment. But I will say this: the entertainment industry, at least in the beginning, has been more responsive to a lot of these things than the gun industry. Now the gun manufacturers are coming along, but I think the entertainment industry is going to have to do a lot more, a lot more.
Q But just a quick question. Sony makes the Doom gameI dont mean to pick out that one gamebut Sony is a huge contributor to the Democratic Party. So you have access to the president of Sony. If you picked up the phone and were talking to him, what would you say to him?
THE PRESIDENT: I would ask him to change the game. And I think that we need to take steps to make sure that younger people dont get it. I think people get this stuff too young.
What you say, by the way, is right. Again I will say, most of the people thatyou can show them things, they can play games or whatever and theyre not going to be affected. But what you have to be sensitive to is if you fill a society with this and you have more kids that are more vulnerable anyway, because they have less supervision at home than in other societies and they have easier access to guns, then you have created a combustible mix which will lead you to more instances of young violence. Thats the deal.
Thats whythats the argument I make to the entertainment industry all the time, thats why they should do more. And thats why the gun people should do more. And thats why parents and communities should do more. Its why you should do more to try to help identify children like this.
STUDENT: Then why have we added on to the violence by allowing the s word and the a word and the b word added on to now ABC, NBC, Channel 9, 7, 5? how come we added on to that with the violence on television, with New York Undercover, NYPD Blue, and now we allow those people to say thoselanguage, not on just movies from Hollywood, but on our local TV stations now? So we just added on to the problem, so its just going to keep building and building and building.
And Littleton and Springfield are nowthey couldnt take any more and it just crumbled. This is kind of likepeople use this as their First Amendment right that we can say this, but we just added on to it.
KATIE: My name is Katie Guthrie, and I live in Reston, Virginia. I just want to say, everybody sitting here, Ive just been listening to everybody say everything. It seems like everybody is looking for someone to blame, something to blamelike the video games, the TV shows, the authorities. But nobody is looking at the kids that are doing it. Why isnt anybody saying, what was wrong with these kids, what was going on in these kids heads? You know, you cant blame a video game and a movie that thousands of other kids play and, like, deal with every single day for one kid that went and did something. You know, I feel like everything is getting stereotyped here.
Q I think thats a good point, Katie, but I think we also have to talk about the fact that theres so many accidental shootings in this country as well, of kids. So were not just talking about a few troubled kids.
Q I hate to do this. Were going to have to put a to be continued on this, because Presidents and First Ladies have schedules.
THE PRESIDENT: Why dont we stay 10 more minutes and listen to the kids? If youll let them talk. I want to hear from the kids
MRS. CLINTON: We could stay longer. I want to hear from them. (Applause.)
JONATHAN: Mr. President, my name is Jonathan Schnerit
and Im from McLean, Virginia, and I attend Langley High School. And it does seem like its rather hard to attack all of the people and the kids and the violence. But I talked to Senator Howell from the Virginia State Senate yesterday and she addressed gun control and research by Virginia with smart guns. And from what I understand, theyre guns in which the owners are the only people who can fire them because of their fingerprints. And it seems like from all these schools that the guns were stolen from their parents or from other places. I was just curious as to how you stand on this topic.
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I think its very important. I think that one of the things weve been trying to do and that the gun manufacturersand I want to say something positive about the people that are trying to help. The gun manufacturers, most of them, have agreed to work with us and now support legislation to require child trigger locks, which will be somewhat helpful. Now, older children can figure out how to undo them, but still theyll save a lot of accidental deaths, and theyre important.
Pretty soon, you will have technology available which you can put into the guns that will raise the costs some in the beginning, like all technology does, but like all technology, the costs will come down quickly, which will mean that only people who have the right fingerprints can fire the gun. And that will be a huge thing.
Then, well have to do a lot gun buy-back programs and other things in communities that will increase safety, and its important.
Q Lets hear from people who havent spoken.
JEN: Well, everybodys trying to think about like try and pinpoint what is causing this, and obviously that is an impossible task. Thats why theres so much debate going on here. But with all due respect, have you thought about going on this in a positive manner, such as, along with the background checks, require a safety course to be taken? I mean, hunters are required to take a safety course, so why doesnt everybody else who owns a gun have to take a safety course?
Q We should say, by the way, you have
JEN: Im from Bethel Park High School and Im the co-captain of our rifle team. And I had never shot a gun when I walked into practice the first day. The first thing I learned was safety, safety, safety. And I dont see why the first time anybody else picks up a gun it should be any different. I mean, even with all these child-proof locks and these fingerprinted guns, theres still accidental deaths. So if parents are taught gun safety, they can instill it into their kids so that all these accidental shootings will not occur. I mean, a lot ofwe have some positive legislation
THE PRESIDENT: Its one thing that I would like to see the NRA do. When I was Governor of my state, I worked with them and they did a lot of very good work on hunter education programs just like youre talking about, and nobody should have a gun that hasnt been trained to use it. You cant get a drivers license unless you can drive a car, and I completely agree with you about that.
CHAD: I have a question, Mr. President, I was just wondering why semiautomatic guns and automatic guns and automatic guns and semiautomatic rifles and stuff that are obviously not used for hunting purposes are sold in stores. What purpose do they serve?
THE PRESIDENT: No, but I tried to ban them all in 1994, and we were able to ban 19 kinds of assault weapons. But the people who were against what I was trying to do were able to keep some loopholes in the law, one of which were closing now, to have these big magazines in the guns, you know, the big clips. And a lot of the imported weapons are still legal. So I spent the last five years trying to get rid of all them. I think they should all be rendered illegal. They also grandfathered in those that were in existence before 94, but I think all of them ought to be taken off the markets. Thats what I think. And Im going to try to keep making progress with Congress to do that.
ELIZABETH: Mr. President, Im Elizabeth Sutton. Im from Reston, Virginia, and I attend South Lakes High School. And a moment ago, you said that the technology on guns will raise the prices, and you almost sounded like it was a good thing that those prices would go down. Theyre raising prices on
THE PRESIDENT: No, its a good thing theyll go up.
ELIZABETH: I thought you said that they wereyou said, of course, it will go down. I dont think they should go down. I think the price should continue to be raised, like cigarettestheyre being raised and raised and raised to encourage kids not to spend their money on something like that. And I think its really important to raise it as high as you can, to make it almost impossible for kids to get guns, because theres no excuse for any of whats been going on.
THE PRESIDENT: I agree with you. I didnt mean toI was just pointing out that when we try to get these things through Congress as requirements, thats one of the things that will always be said. But I think it ought to beI think this identification thing Jonathan mentioned can make a big difference.
ROBERT: Yes, Im Robert from Woodrow Wilson. And I was wondering about the toy guns, because Ive been looking at TV, I notice that children have been accidentally grabbing actual guns that theyve mistaken as a toy gun. And Ive seen the actual toy gun, and it looks just like an actual gun. What are your opinions on that? Dont you think that something needs to be done about toy guns, too? They look too realistic.
MRS. CLINTON: Thats a really good point. I know that toys can be regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and Ill havewell carry this message. Ill ask the people over there to give us a report about that, and see if theres anything further they can do.
Q Id like to ask, if I could, Marc Kramer, to stand up over there, because youve got a story to tell about somebody in this room
MARC: Yes I do. My name is Marc Kramer. Im from Chicago. I attend Mount Carmel High School. Im representing the Hands Without Guns organization in Chicago. And its an organization for youth violence prevention.
As a factor in my story, I accidentally shot my best friend with a gun that was very easily put into my possession. And, personally, Im wondering how you feel personally about the background checks on the purchase of guns. Do you personally believe that background checks can honestly prevent guns from falling into wrong hands?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, but it cant prevent all of them. That is, itwe have actual numbers on it. We know how many people weve prevented from getting handguns, because they had criminal records, since weve put it in. But there are so many guns, that it doesnt prevent everybody from getting it.
And one of the real problems is, when children are in places where they have easy access to guns, then you can have what happenedyoure a brave guy to be here. Wheres your friend? Which ones your friend? You want to say something about this?
MICHAEL: Michael Robbins. I just wanted to know, children getting guns these days and whatever, its easy to obtain a gun now. If you go and tell an authority that someone you know has a gun in your school, how can you protect yourself from being the victim, if that person finds out you told the authorities?
MRS. CLINTON: Thats where I think, Michael, the point that the President made earlier about an anonymous hotline, where you could get that information in without even having to leave your namewould that be better?
THE PRESIDENT: See, I went to T.C. Williams High School, right across the river here, where I dont think they have medicalexcuse memetal detectors.
Q Its early. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Its early. But they have this hotline, they have the student hotline. And if a student there knows that somebody has a gun who shouldnt, they know two things if they call, and both things are important. One is, they know they wont be identified, and two is, they know there will be some responsible person to actually follow up on it. So I think that is something that other schools should consider doing.
Q Ive heard of one proposal that schools should be told in advance which homes have guns, so if they spot a troubled kid they know that hes in a home that has a gun. What do you think about that? How would your parents feel about that?
MIKE: My name is Mike Cullen, from Northern Virginia, Fairfax. About what she just said, do you think theres a difference between owning a hunting rifle or a handgun, or is there any way you could tell beforehand if, you know, the penalty should be more for a handgun or assault rifle? Do you think there should be a bigger punishment?
Q And Mike is a hunter.
MIKE: Im a hunter, by the way. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, a lot of avid sports people would tell you that they do some of that with handguns, too. But generally, yes, I think theres a big difference between assault weapons and other weapons. Some people claim they use them for sporting purposes, but no one needs them. And there is a difference between handguns and other weapons, because handguns are used more, theyre easier to conceal and theyre more likely to be used for illegal purposes and less likely to be used for legal purposes. Therefore, I think it is legitimate to have higher standards on owning them and greater requirements on background checks and greater requirements on whether they should be registered or not. Thats what I believe.
Q Mr. President, if I could, we now have the tyranny of the computer and the clock coming. And we cant thank you both enough for joining us, letting us be here this morning. (Applause.) We appreciate it.
And well take a break. Well take a break. Well be right back. (Applause.)
END 8:15 A.M. EDT