Reagan, Congress try once again to toughen federal anticrime laws
President Reagan declares that the need for comprehensive criminal law reforms to halt violent crime is ''clear and urgent.'' Meanwhile, Congress is embroiled in controversy over the program, even as it is submitted.
After nearly 10 years of debate, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a criminal code reform act last September, 95 to 1. However, the congressional measure set up a ''drug czar'' to oversee federal narcotics enforcement, a proposal that the Justice Department opposed, and Mr. Reagan vetoed the bill. Last week Reagan tried again in the new ''Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1983.''
Some critics charge the President's proposals don't go far enough. While he urges ''a minimum mandatory sentence'' for use of firearms in crimes, he omits proposals to make it harder to purchase and own concealable handguns.
Other critics charge the President's proposals go too far. They assail a proposal to make certain evidence, obtained illegally, available to courts where police proceeded with reasonable belief that they were acting in compliance with the law. This is a weakening, it is charged, of the so-called ''exclusionary rule,'' interpreting the Fourth Amendment.
In his State of the Union Message Jan. 25, Reagan said that the time has come for ''major reform of our criminal justice statutes.'' ''The President feels it's very urgent,'' said Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Strom Thurmond (R) of South Carolina after a White House briefing.
The President has told Congress that the new anticrime package has been submitted on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. It isn't intended ''as a single bill, '' he writes. It should ''rather serve as a reference document to set out, in comprehensive fashion, all of the various criminal justice legislative reforms needed to restore a proper balance between the forces of law and the forces of lawlessness.''
Reagan's silence on handgun control is noted here. The National Rifle Association, a powerful single-interest lobby opposes a federal ban on such weapons. By contrast, Dr. Milton Eisenhower headed an anticrime commission that recommended prohibiting ''manufacture, importation, and distribution'' of all handguns. In a book he declared, ''Every civilized nation in the world other than our own has comprehensive national policies of gun control.''