Hard Work and United Front Fuels Momentum to Pass the Crime Bill; Assault Weapon Ban Serves as Proof of What Working Together Can Do

Article excerpt

Public policy debates are a critical part of our strong democratic system. From this cauldron of verbiage can come enlighted action, and last week, it surely did -- with a modest, yet momentous step that will make our city streets safer and our communities more livable. House passage of the ban on assault weapons has virtually guaranteed that the ban will be part of any crime bill passed this year.

Thanks to the hard work of city leaders, we are one step closer to passage of meaningful anti-crime legislation. Your calls, your letters, and your personal visits to Capitol Hill made the difference: a crime bill is now within our grasp.

But we can't let up. As the crime bill heads toward a House-Senate conference, we must re-double our efforts to make sure it gets on President Clinton's desk so our nation's cities and towns can start to implement it. The assault weapons vote margin was slim--two votes--but the message is clear: by curbing the future manufacture and import of these deadly weapons, Congress is hearing the united voices of city leaders, public safety personnel, and citizens.

We want safer streets, and there is no place on those streets for deadly assault weapons which have no purpose other than to kill people. Much work remains in our efforts to curb crime and violence in our communities, but the assault weapons vote is an important first step, and a testament to what can be achieved when we speak up with a clear, resonant voice for what we belive is vital for our communities.

Remember when a similar measure was defeated by 70 votes back in 1991? I do, and it makes the accomplishment seem all the greater. Nineteen Democrats and 11 Republicans who opposed the ban three years ago switched sides last week showing that the desire to ban assault weapons and reclaim our streets can rise above traditional political concerns.

Crime threatens public health, snuffs out economic opportunity, disrupts our schools, depletes our financial resources, and paralyzes our residents with fear. That's why NLC has made figthing crime a key priority for more than three years, through ongoing work in our children and families project and policy process, advisory council studies initiated by our First Vice President Carolyn Long Banks, Atlanta coouncilwoman-at-large and NLC's Task Force on Violence, chaired Mayor Hector Luis Acevedo of San Juan, P. …