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Joe Biden is the president of the United States. This piece first appeared in the New York Daily News.
In the past week, New York City has paid tribute to two of its finest, Detectives Wilbert Mora and Jason Rivera. They represented who and what we want law enforcement to be: brave, idealistic and deeply committed to service. Their bright futures were cut short by a man with a stolen gun and a 40-round drum magazine.
Six NYPD officers have been victims of gun violence so far this year. Nationally, 64 children have been injured by gun violence already this year; 26 children killed. Every day in this country, 316 people are shot; 106 killed.
It’s time for all of us to say: enough. There are steps we can take to turn pain into purpose, and that is what I was in New York Thursday to announce.
Mayor Eric Adams and I agree: The solution is not to defund our police, it’s to give them the tools, training and funding to be the partners and protectors our communities need. The answer is not to abandon our streets. It’s for police and the community to come together to make them safer through policing that treats everyone with dignity and respect.
That’s why I’ve called on Congress to pass a budget later this month that provides cities an additional $300 million for community policing. We need more police on the street, walking the beat and making communities safer.
I’ve also asked Congress to provide $200 million for community violence intervention programs like the one I visited in Queens, where trusted community members work directly with the people most likely to commit or become victims of gun crimes. These programs can reduce violence by up to 60 percent.
That’s a half-billion dollars for proven strategies we know will reduce violent crime. That, along with the increased funding I’ve requested for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the U.S. Marshals, is essential to my comprehensive, nationwide strategy to prevent gun crime.
First, we’re cracking down on the flow of firearms used to commit violence. That means going after rogue gun dealers who illegally sell to criminals. We’re also sending additional prosecutorial resources to shut down the so-called “iron pipeline” that brings guns from other states into New York City. Gov. Kathy Hochul has created an interstate, interagency task force to stem the flow of illegal guns. Efforts like this will make a big difference.
We’re also going after people who use “ghost guns” to commit crimes. These are the guns that can be assembled from a kit but can’t be traced when they’re used in a crime because they don’t have serial numbers. So we’re launching an intensified national ghost guns enforcement initiative to deter criminals from using those weapons to cover their tracks. If someone commits a crime with a ghost gun, not only will state and local prosecutors come after them, they should expect federal charges and prosecution.
Second, we’re funding smart law enforcement and gun crime prevention efforts. New York City has identified a few hundred individuals in a city of 8.8 million who are repeatedly involved in gun violence. Every weekday, the city brings together federal, state and local law enforcement sharing intelligence so that we can get these shooters off the street. I visited a meeting of this “Gun Violence Strategic Partnership” during my trip and saw how effective it is when everyone is working together against gun violence. The U.S. Department of Justice is going to help more cities adopt the same model.
Third, we’re investing in community violence intervention and prevention strategies that work, like violence interrupters, summer and after-school programs for teens, jobs for young adults [as the saying goes, “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop”], school counselors and nurses, and mental health and substance abuse treatment.
Fourth, when someone finishes their time in prison, we can’t just hand them $25 and a bus ticket. We need to ensure they can access job training, stable housing and a second chance at a better life.
I will keep doing everything in my power to make our communities safer, but Congress also needs to do its part. Pass universal background checks. Ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Close loopholes to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, and repeal the liability shield for gun manufacturers, because there’s no reason that they should be the only industry in America that’s exempt from being sued. These are all common sense steps that will save lives.
We can never bring back those we’ve lost. But we can come together to fulfill the first responsibility of our government and our democracy: to keep each other safe. I am committed to working with the people and leaders of New York to do just that.