|Bush Moves to Enforce Existing Gun Laws|
President Bush backed up his campaign position on gun violence yesterday by announcing a sweeping new plan to increase enforcement of existing state and federal gun control laws rather than passing new ones.
Called Project Safe Neighborhoods, the $550 million, two-year program calls for the hiring of 113 new federal prosecutors to be dedicated strictly to gun law enforcement. In addition, some 600 new state and local gun prosecutors will be added at a cost of around $75 million, according to Attorney General John Ashcroft.
While some money is already available, the bulk if the funding for Project Safe Neighborhoods is included in the Justice Department's proposed 2002 budget.
Ashcroft noted that some $44 million would be used to improve state criminal database systems and another $28.8 million would go to expand and enhance a federal program that tests and compares bullets used in crimes. An additional $19.1 million will be used to expand a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms program designed to keep young people from obtaining firearms.
The President stated that Project Safe Neighborhoods would increase accountability for enforcement of gun laws within all levels of the justice system while sending, "an unmistakable message: if you use a gun illegally, you will do hard time."
Speaking in Philadelphia, the President compared his Project Safe Neighborhoods to Richmond, Virginia's Project Exile, a successful program of strict enforcement and enhanced jail penalties that has now spread to cities in Bush's home state of Texas, as well as the states of Pennsylvania and South Carolina.
Bush noted that in just the first year of Project Exile, homicides in Richmond had been reduced by 40 percent and armed robberies by 30 percent. "And thanks to Boston's Operation Cease-fire, in almost two years, no one under the age of 17 was shot," added the President.
"We're going to reduce gun violence in America, and those who commit crimes with guns will find a determined adversary in my administration," concluded President Bush.