-- Overview --
The rate of serious crime -- murder, forcible rape, robbery aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft -- was 18 per cent higher in 1974 than in 1973. That was the sharpest increase in the forty-four years that the F. B. I. has collected and reported crime statistics. Since 1960, the crime rate has more than doubled, despite the billions of dollars which have been spent on law enforcement programs. More significantly, the number of crimes involving the threat of violence or actual violence has also increased.
The personal and social toll that crime exacts from our citizens is enormous. Yet, the law continues to center its attention more on the rights of the criminal defendant than on the victims of crime.
President Ford believes that it is time for law to concern itself more with the rights of the people it exists to protect. The victims of crime are his primary concern.
The President believes that the Federal government can and must play an important role in combatting crime by:
To accomplish these objectives, President Ford has:
In his 1976 State of the Union message to the Nation, President Ford repeated his call for the enactment of this strong crime-control program. In addition, he asked Congress to:
President Ford has said that he ". . . favors the use of the death penalty in the Federal criminal system in accordance with proper Constitutional standards". He believes that the death penalty, in appropriate instances, should be imposed upon the conviction of sabotage, murder, espionage and treason.
The President recognizes, however, that there might be circumstances in which flexibility is necessary.
"Of course, the maximum penalty should not be applied if there is duress or impaired mental capacity or similar extenuating circumstances.
"But in murders involving substantial danger to the national security, or when the defendant is a cold blooded hired killer, the use of capital punishment is fully justified."
DRUG ABUSE CONTROL
The President's program to curb drug abuse was spelled out in more detail in a special message to Congress in April. He asked for specific legislation to:
In a special message to the Congress on June 19, 1975, the President said that he was "unalterably opposed" to Federal Registration of guns or gun owners.
President Ford believes that the way to handle this problem is not by registering guns and gun owners, but by making the use of a gun in the commission of a crime a mandatory penalty.
Responding to a question at the University of New Hampshire on February 8, 1976, the President stated:
My basic philosophy is that we should make it as difficult as possible for the person with a criminal intent to have possession so he can use a handgun.
Number one, I think we should stiffen the penalty for those individuals who commit a crime while in the possession of a handgun. This included for those types of crimes mandatory criminal prison sentences.
In addition, I think we should extend restrictions on the availability of the so-called Saturday night specials.
In addition, in the budget for fiscal 1977, I recommended an additional 500 employees for the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division of the Department of the Treasury, so that they can move into major metropolitan areas of high crime and incidents and really go after the trading of handguns in those areas where the danger is the greatest.
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