“If the American people do not feel safe on their streets, in their schools, in their homes, in their place of work and worship, then it is difficult to say that the American people are free.”
–President Clinton, September 13, 1994
This area of the permanent exhibit explores the domestic crime policy of the Clinton administration
with photographs, charts, video, and objects from the collection of the Clinton Library. In the face of rising crime rates, including a gun violence rate that reached a twenty year high in 1992, President Clinton made public safety and commonsense gun control and national priority in the early years of his presidency.
1993 saw the passage of the “Brady Law,” named for former Reagan administration press secretary James Brady who was paralyzed during the attempted assassination of President Reagan in 1981. Putting in place a waiting period, background checks, and prohibiting certain people from purchasing a firearm, it was the first step in the Clinton administration’s public safety work. The omnibus crime bill was sponsored by Joe Biden and passed despite large amounts of opposition from Republicans. It instituted stronger penalties for some crimes and increased the number of jails and prosecutors in the country while also expanding treatment programs for substance abuse offenders. The idea of “community policing” was important to the bill. It called for police to be present and recognizable within higher-crime areas of towns in order to gain the trust and respect of local residents. As a result of this emphasis on public safety, crime rates fell every year that President Clinton was in office, eventually reaching a 27 year low by the end of his administration.