By Lucia Leal
Washington, Jun 23 (EFE).- US President Joe Biden unveiled on Wednesday his strategy to reduce gun violence in the country’s cities, focused on providing more resources to the police and removing licenses from negligent firearms dealers.
In a speech at the White House and accompanied by Attorney General Merrick Garland, Biden pledged to do more to reduce crime in the country, after homicides rose more than 30 percent last year in major cities, according to studies by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a national association of policemen.
“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,” he warned.
The possible political consequences of this trend are of concern to the White House, which has decided to face the issue head-on – contrary to what other Democratic politicians have traditionally done – and relate it to one of the party’s priorities: gun control.
The president said that 5 percent of the country’s firearms dealers sold 90 percent of the illegal guns found at crime scenes, and promised “zero tolerance” against those sellers who break the law.
“These merchants of death are breaking the law for profit,” he stressed.
“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 will seek your license to sell guns,” he added.
Biden’s plan also allows states to divert funds from the bailout package approved in March by Congress to mitigate the effects of the pandemic to measures to reduce crime.
States will be able to use that money to hire troops, invest in new types of police training, and acquire technology that allow officers to respond more quickly to firearm incidents.
In addition, states will be able to invest in educational programs aimed at preventing violence and targeting those communities that, for social and economic reasons, are more likely to be involved in firearms incidents, either as victims or perpetrators.
The president also opted to help the social reintegration of prisoners to reduce their recidivism. The administration plans to give housing assistance to some ex-inmates and grant tax incentives to companies that hire them in the first 12 months of their release.
Finally, the president wants to use part of the budget for the next fiscal year, which has yet to be approved by Congress, so that there is an agent specialized in firearms in all the police departments of the country.
The Republican opposition reacted skeptically to Biden’s speech, with Republican National Committee spokeswoman Emma Vaughn saying “Biden’s failure to hold his own party accountable for defunding police is endangering communities and triggering a spike in crime across the country.”
Meanwhile, the largest US civil rights organization, the ACLU, broadly praised Biden’s plan, but warned that some of its elements could “lead to the further criminalization of communities of color.” EFE