Biden to outline efforts to combat crime, with focus on gun violence
President Biden on Wednesday will lay out his administration’s agenda to cut down on crime, with a particular focus on addressing gun violence as action in Congress remains elusive.
The president will deliver remarks and meet with local leaders at the White House, devoting the day’s messaging to the issue of rising crime in U.S. cities that has coincided with the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden will highlight Department of Justice efforts to reduce the number of firearms circulating, as well as new federal funding available to cities to invest in policing and community programs.
Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland will meet with a bipartisan group of officials that includes the New Jersey attorney general, the mayors of Rapid City, S.D., Baltimore and Miami-Dade County, and the chief of police in Baton Rouge, La., as well as community leaders.
“His remarks tomorrow will build on a number of the announcements that have already touched on that he’s made in the recent months… putting in place safety measures to make our streets safer, preventing the use of guns in violent crime across the country, ensuring that we can have more cops on the beat to protect communities,” press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.
The administration’s plan for combatting violence and crime contains five main initiatives, administration officials said.
The first is focused on stemming the flow of firearms used to commit crimes by cracking down on rogue gun dealers that skirt federal regulations. As part of the effort, the Department of Justice on Tuesday also announced the formation of multi-jurisdictional “firearms trafficking strike forces” focusing on how guns have been diverted to New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and the Bay Area.
Biden’s plan will also outline how local jurisdictions can use billions of dollars in American Rescue Plan funding allocated to state and local governments to hire additional law enforcement officials and use the money to enforce gun laws and prevent shootings.
The administration will also highlight efforts to invest in community violence intervention programs in 14 major cities that have seen high rates of gun violence, including Chicago, Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, Los Angeles, Detroit and St. Louis.
Biden officials will meet with local leaders from those jurisdictions over the next 18 months to provide assistance, and the cities will be able to put American Rescue Plan funding toward programs that have helped reduce violence in neighborhoods.
The president is also likely to renew his calls on Congress to enact tougher gun laws, something he has done to no avail after high profile mass shootings that have taken place this year in Colorado, Georgia and Indiana.
The president’s plan will also call for expanding summer programming and employment opportunities for at-risk teenagers and young adults, and Biden will highlight investments and tax credits to be used to help formerly incarcerated individuals more successfully reenter their communities in an effort to cut down on recidivism.
Biden’s focus on crime comes amid an increase in violence over the past 18 months. In 2020, as much of the country and economy was shuttered due to the pandemic, there was a 30 percent year-over-year increase homicides and an 8 percent increase in gun assaults in large cities.
The numbers continued to rise in the first quarter of 2021, a senior administration official said, citing “the secondary consequences of the pandemic and the proliferation of illegal guns.”
Violent crime rates are still well below the rates of previous decades, but the jump has prompted concern in locales in different parts of the country, and White House officials said Biden wants to get out in front of it to reassure the American people he’s on top of it.
Biden addressing crime puts him in a potentially vulnerable political position, however, as the approach to the issue has divided his party and has been an area where he has evolved.
Biden has repeatedly distanced himself from calls from some Democrats to “defund the police,” making clear he supports law enforcement while backing efforts at policing reform. The president has also sought to show how he has evolved from the 1990s, when he supported a crime bill that was widely blamed for a resulting surge in the incarceration of people of color.