President Clinton signed a bill Sunday outlawing Rohypnol and other “date-rape drugs” used by rapists in what he called “a sick attempt to facilitate their violent crimes.”
The bill subjects rapists to an additional 20 years in prison if they use a narcotic to incapacitate their victims.
With a line of police officers forming a law-and-order backdrop, Clinton declared, “Today, I signed legislation to crack down on criminals who employ illegal drugs in a sick attempt to facilitate their violent crimes.”
“We must do everything we can to stop it.”
The new law, for the first time, makes using a drug as a weapon illegal. Supporters argue that dropping a pill in a victim’s drink is just as nefarious as putting a knife to her throat.
He signed the measure on a sunny Denver tarmac before boarding Air Force One for Albuquerque, N.M., where he planned three days of mock debates, golf and rest. The second and final debate with rival Bob Dole is Wednesday night in San Diego.
Increasingly venomous Republican attacks on Clinton’s character put his campaign on the defensive Sunday. Swarms of reporters surrounded his spokesmen in front of the president’s plane for reaction to GOP attacks on the Sunday morning news shows.
Dole campaign manager Scott Reed said that through Election Day, Dole will be asking, “Do the American people trust Bill Clinton?”
“This is a sign of desperation by the Dole campaign,” said Harold Ickes, the chief White House political operative.
The GOP criticism stole some thunder from the Denver event. Still, the bill-signing ceremony underscored Clinton’s greatest political advantage over Dole: incumbency. As president, Clinton can command attention by signing bills, issuing executive orders or responding to international developments.
The date-rape bill is particularly appealing to women, a constituency Clinton has wooed from day one in the campaign. Polls show he is overwhelmingly favored by female voters - a gap Dole must narrow to win.
The new law provides for a 20-year sentence for the use of an illegal drug as a tool of rape or other violent crime, as well as possession, manufacture or distribution of an illegal drug with intent to use it in commission of a violent crime. Simple possession of Rohypnol, with no proven intent, carries up to three years in prison.
The new law follows a sharp increase in reported use of Rohypnol pills, known on the street as “roofies.” The odorless, colorless, tasteless tranquilizer - 10 to 20 times more powerful than Valium - can be dropped into unknowing victims’ drinks, causing them to pass out and have little memory of what happens next.
Rep. Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo., has said the tactic has created a crisis on the nation’s college campuses.
Although Rohypnol is illegal in the United States, it is used legally in other countries to treat sleeplessness, anxiety, convulsions and muscle tension.
The Republican-led House and Senate easily passed the bill early this month. Clinton, who won New Mexico and Colorado in 1992, leads narrowly in current Colorado polls and holds a comfortable margin in New Mexico.
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