Prepared Statement of Congressman David Dreier (R-CA) Chairman of the House Rules Committee

Prepared Statement of Congressman David Dreier (R-CA)
Chairman of the House Rules Committee
Monday, June 14, 1999

"The Committee meets today on a difficult subject - youth violence and child safety. Although overall crime and violence nationwide have been reduced to 30 year lows and Americans of all ages are much safer than just a few years ago, a few high profile tragedies in our nation's schools have struck a chord with all Americans. I believe that every Member of the House wants to deal with this in a constructive manner.

"We have a difficult task before us. It goes without saying that, like America, the House is united in a strong desire to see an end to youth violence. Based on the approximately 175 amendments filed, it is obvious that there are different proposals on the best way to proceed. Republicans and Democrats alike are on both sides of many of the more controversial proposals before us today.

"It is our intention to fashion a rule that provides for a full and focused debate. However, although this demands that we carefully review and limit amendments to those that are relevant to the issues, there will be the opportunity for a wide variety of provisions to be voted on by the House.

"No one can say what the final bill will look like in detail, but there are a number of important provisions that will be considered. First, H.R. 1501 provides $1.5 billion over three years for local communities to combat youth violence. Second, there will be proposals to set severe gun crime penalties, from mandatory penalties for those bringing gun violence to schools, to the death penalty for anyone convicted of killing someone at a school. Third, $50 million in funding will be proposed so that all U.S. Attorney's offices can assign one prosecutor full time to fighting federal gun crimes. Finally, a number of firearms restrictions and safety measures, including mandatory trigger locks, banning youth possession of so-called assault weapons, and background checks for gun shows will be considered.

"Before we begin, I would like to offer a very brief observation about America's young people. While it is appropriate to search for answers in the wake of Columbine and other tragedies, we must be careful not to lose perspective on today's school children. Our children are not reflected in the twisted rage of Columbine's killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold - but rather in the diverse, energetic and religious lives of the victims, such as Cassie Bernall, who died because of her religion. It is they who truly represent America's youth. Go to any school library, flip through the pages of any high school yearbook, and you will find the true measure of America's young adults.

"As we approach the new millennium, young people are more religious and do more volunteer work than earlier generations. Just a few weeks ago, I was proud to present local Youth Volunteer Awards to high school students in Southern California who work in hospitals, police departments and homeless shelters - giving back to their communities.

"As we move forward on this bill, let's not forget that young people, their parents and all Americans expect us to find appropriate, firm and targeted measures that address youth violence and child safety.