President Biden this afternoon announced a “major crackdown” on gun dealers who violate existing law saying his administration would implement a “zero tolerance” policy to ensure weapons dealers “can’t sell death and mayhem on our streets.”
“We are announcing a major crackdown to the stem of flow of guns used to commit violent crimes,” he said in a speech addressing a rise in violent crime across the nation. “It is zero tolerance for those who willfully violate key existing laws and regulations.”
“If you willfully sell a gun to someone who is prohibited from possessing it, if you willfully fail to run a background check, if you willfully falsify a record, if you willfully fail to cooperate with the tracing requests or inspections, my message to you is this. ‘We’ll find you and we’ll seek your license to sell guns.'”
“We will make sure you can’t sell death and mayhem on our streets,” he continued. “It is an outrage. It has to end and we will end it.”
Biden’s remarks come as major American cities saw a 33% increase in homicides last year as a pandemic swept across the country, millions of people joined protests against racial injustice and police brutality, and the economy collapsed under the weight of the pandemic — a crime surge that continued into the first quarter of this year.
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President Biden said he believes the easing of pandemic restrictions over the summer may mean the typical summer spike in crime “may even be more pronounced than it usually would be.”
“Crime historically rises during the summer. And as we emerge from this pandemic with the country opening back up again, the traditional summer spike may even be more pronounced than it usually would be,” Biden said during a speech Wednesday afternoon.
“For folks at home, here’s what you need to know. I’ve been at this a long time. And there are things we know that work to reduce gun violence and violent crime and things that we don’t know about. But things we know about, background checks for purchasing a firearm are important. Ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. No one needs to have a weapon that can fire over 30, 40, 50, even up to a hundred rounds unless you think the deer are wearing Kevlar vests or something. Community policing and programs to keep neighborhoods safe and keep folks out of trouble. These efforts work, they save lives,” Biden added.
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President Biden is delivering remarks from the White House and will announce a comprehensive strategy on violent crime prevention.
Biden is also set to sign executive actions with a particular focus on tamping down gun crimes, according to officials, and is expected to address recent spikes in shootings, armed robberies and vicious assaults.
After years of decreasing crime statistics, the homicide rate surged in major US cities in 2020 and that trend appears poised to continue this year. Last weekend, there were 10 mass shootings across nine states that killed seven people and injured at least 45 others, according to data compiled by CNN and Gunviolencearchive.org.
According to the White House, Biden’s “Comprehensive Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gun Crime and Ensure Public Safety” will focus on five main pillars:
- Stem the flow of firearms used to commit violence, including by holding rogue firearms dealers accountable for violating federal laws
- Support local law enforcement with federal tools and resources to help address summer violent crime
- Invest in evidence-based community violence interventions
- Expand summer programming, employment opportunities, and other services and support for teenagers and young adults
- Help formerly incarcerated individuals successfully reenter their communities
Major American cities saw a 33% increase in homicides last year as a pandemic swept across the country, millions of people joined protests against racial injustice and police brutality, and the economy collapsed under the weight of the pandemic — a crime surge that continued into the first quarter of this year.
Sixty-three of the 66 largest police jurisdictions saw increases in at least one category of violent crimes in 2020, which include homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, according to a report produced by the Major Cities Chiefs Association. Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Raleigh, North Carolina, did not report increases in any of the violent crime categories.
Remember: It’s nearly impossible to attribute any year-to-year change in violent crime statistics to any single factor, and homicides and shootings are an intensely local phenomenon that can spike for dozens of reasons. But the increase in homicide rates across the country is both historic and far-reaching, as were the pandemic and social movements that touched every part of society last year.
Through the first three months of 2021, a number of major cities have indicated they are still experiencing high rates of violent crime, according to Laura Cooper, executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association. “Some cities are set to outpace last year’s numbers,” she said.
In Chicago, homicides were up 33% in the first three months of the year compared to 2020, while shootings were up nearly 40% for the same period year-over-year. In New York City, the NYPD data shows murders jumped by nearly 14% through March 28.
In Los Angeles, homicides have increased nearly 36% from 67 to 91 through March 30, LAPD Officer Rosario Cervantes told CNN. Those three cities — the nation’s largest — all saw significant increases last year over 2019.
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Ahead of President Biden’s speech on his gun crime prevention and public safety strategy, FBI Director Chris Wray told lawmakers that the agency is concerned about the rise of violent crime across the country and hopes their partnerships with other law enforcement can combat the rates.
Wray said in a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies that FBI agents have been deployed to partner with various multi-agency teams like the Safe Streets Task Force, Violent Crime Task Forces that have led to “6,500 violent crime arrests, amidst the worst of the pandemic.”
The Justice Department made two separate announcements over the last few weeks regarding their efforts to combat violent crime and illegal gun trafficking. Both nationwide efforts include the FBI’s collaborations with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
“We are also trying to contribute in other ways through NICS [National Instant Criminal Background Check System], making sure that guns don’t get in the hands of the people legally prohibited from having them, our tip line, our labs supporting state and locals, and we have, to your point about surging resources, we have recently created a new violent crime rapid deployment team,” Wray said.
Wray said the agency has been busier than ever before and will need a multi-million dollar increase in their annual budget to “carry out our mission to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution.”
Biden is expected to address recent spikes in shootings, armed robberies and vicious assaults when he announces the details of the crime prevention strategy Wednesday afternoon during a speech at the White House.
After years of decreasing crime statistics, the homicide rate surged in major cities in 2020 and that trend appears poised to continue this year. Last weekend, there were 10 mass shootings across nine states that killed seven people and injured at least 45 others, according to data compiled by CNN and Gunviolencearchive.org.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki argued that President Biden’s crime prevention strategy, which is set to be released later Wednesday afternoon, is in line with his views on crime prevention over the course of decades.
CNN’s Phil Mattingly asked Psaki during Wednesday’s press briefing what role politics played in releasing a crime prevention strategy, given that the plan comes as the White House has felt pressure to address a nationwide surge in violent crime and Republicans are already seizing on that surge as a political cudgel.
“Well, the President has been very consistent in his views over the course of decades. He has never been for defunding the police. He has always been a supporter of ensuring that local community policing is funded and adequately supported by the federal government. He’s also been a longtime advocate for decades and a leader on addressing gun violence,” Psaki said.
Psaki called the strategy part of the “continuity” of Biden’s “leadership on these issues over the course of decades.” However, she did not mention specific efforts, some of which may be seen as weak points in the President’s approach to criminal justice over the years — like Biden’s involvement in the 1994 crime bill he helped write. The President, for his part, has said in recent years that he hasn’t always been right on criminal justice issues.
“Now he has taken steps since President, on each of these issues as well, including supporting funding, proposing funding in his own budget for community policing, and this is just an opportunity to put additional meat on the bones,” she added.
President Biden plans to sign executive actions today as part of his gun crime prevention and public safety strategy he is set to announce. They will have a particular focus on tamping down gun crimes, according to officials, while again calling on Congress to take steps to enact new gun control laws.
In April, Biden took his first, limited actions on gun control, directing his administration to tighten restrictions on so-called ghost guns and pistol stabilizing braces that allow the weapons to be used more accurately.
On April 18, Biden signed a half-dozen executive actions on gun control, but they fell far short of the ambitious goals he outlined as a presidential candidate as the real fight still looms on Capitol Hill.
In his remarks from the White House Rose Garden in April, Biden challenged the evenly split Senate to do more on guns, saying:
“They can do it right now. They’ve offered plenty of thoughts and prayers, members of Congress, but they have passed not a single new federal law to reduce gun violence.”
“Enough prayers,” he went on, “time for some action.”
The President finds himself once again staring at a harsh reality: lasting gun control reforms can only be achieved if Democratic members of Congress find consensus – not only through negotiations with their GOP colleagues but also within their own caucus, which has long been divided on this most fractious issue.
Read more about those executive actions here.
For President Biden, today’s announcement on gun crime prevention is the latest chapter in his long — and politically complicated — history with crime legislation. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden helped write the 1994 crime bill, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
“A guy named Biden wrote that bill and he wrote that bill by going down and sitting down with the president of the United States of America,” said Biden, crowing about the legislation during a speech on the Senate floor at the time.
In the 1990s, the tough-on-crime stance was viewed as a prized accomplishment for Biden, who warned of “predators on our streets” who were “beyond the pale.”
Yet a quarter-century later, his warm embrace of Clinton during a Rose Garden signing ceremony for the 1994 crime bill stirred controversy during his 2020 presidential primary. Several candidates, including then-opponent Kamala Harris, criticized Biden for his role in the legislation, which she and other critics said led to an era of mass incarceration.
Biden dismissed such criticism from the progressive base of his party, reminding voters that the controversial crime bill at the time was supported by the Congressional Black Caucus and several of the nation’s leading Black mayors. At the same time, he minimized his role in getting the law enacted, saying he was “got stuck with” the job because he was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Today, the politics of crime legislation are less certain.
A movement to “Defund the Police” has lost considerable steam inside the Democratic Party, amid rising crime rates across the country. Biden has consistently been opposed to any such measures — and avoided such language — by refusing to accept the criticism from progressives during his presidential race.
Meanwhile, local law enforcement officials have begun placing greater emphasis on community intervention programs to prevent violence, a shift away from the style of policing embedded in the laws Biden helped pass.
“We have to do a better job of … not repeating the mistakes of the past, where we think the best way to solve violent crime is to go out and arrest people for low-level offenses, creating this mass incarceration epidemic that we are trying to handle,” said Chief Shon Barnes of the Madison, Wisconsin, police. “That is simply not the way to handle violent crime in America.”
“I believe that we have to start partnering with other people in our community, and sometimes the police have to take a backseat and allow some of our civic groups, some of our entities within city government to take the lead and we take a supporting role. The idea is to prevent crime and not simply to respond to it,” Barnes said on CNN.
While Biden’s views and record on crime hardly kept him from winning the primary and general election campaigns, they now present a new test for the White House in its quest to avoid deep schisms inside the Democratic Party.
Republicans, in their effort to win control of the House and Senate next year, are already seizing on the issue of crime. Party officials believe it’s one of the strongest arguments to win back suburban voters, particularly women, who abandoned the GOP in the Trump era.
“Democrats up and down the ballot have done everything in their power to subvert law enforcement,” Mike Berg, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said this week. “Voters will hold Democrats accountable for their pro-crime policies.”
As Americans continue to come out of coronavirus isolation and states lift restrictions on gatherings, shootings continue to plague the nation, with 10 mass shootings occurring in the US since last Friday night.
Seven people were killed and at least 45 were injured in the shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive (GVA). Among the victims were at least two children, a 10-year-old and a 15-year-old, police said.
The latest shootings are among a streak of deadly violent weekends the nation has seen in the past few weeks.
The prior weekend, there were also 10 mass shootings across seven states that killed 12 people and injured 57 more, data from GVA shows.
GVA reports there have been 293 mass shootings in 2021 so far.
CNN defines a mass shooting as four or more people shot, not including the shooter. A weekend is tracked from Friday afternoon through Sunday overnight.
On Saturday, four people were injured in a shooting in Newark, New Jersey, according to GVA.
Read more here.