A bogus crime bill

March 15, 1991|By Newsday

PRESIDENT BUSH'S supposedly new anti-crime bill is not new and will not fight crime. Worse, Bush is pitching this snake oil as if buying it were an act of patriotism: What better way to honor the the Persian Gulf vets, the president said, than to make the streets safe for their return?

Problem is, there's nothing in Bush's crime plan that will make the streets safer for anyone. Like the crime bill the administration submitted last year -- rejected almost in its entirety by both houses of Congress -- it is based on the misguided notion that curtailing fundamental rights reduces crime. Yet it again omits the single element that could help staunch the flow of blood in the nation's cities: significant federal gun control.

The president would continue to allow domestically made semi-automatic assault weapons to be produced and sold. He continues to oppose congressional attempts to ban them. Bush would continue to allow convicted felons and the mentally ill to obtain handguns. He opposes a seven-day waiting period on gun purchases, so a buyer's background could be checked.

Instead, Bush's prescription for fighting crime is to expand the number of federal crimes for which the death penalty could be imposed and drastically curtail death-row inmates' rights to appeal.

The president also would do away with the remaining protection against illegal searches by allowing cops to conduct warrantless searches and use illegally obtained evidence if they claim they acted in "good faith." He would go well beyond the Supreme Court's recent ruling that police, if they had a warrant, could violate its conditions if they acted in good faith. That's an invitation to abuse.

True, the president would toughen penalties for firearms offenses. But this misses the point: Get-tough sentences can only be applied after a crime occurs. Real gun control might actually prevent it from occurring.

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