Former Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday will unveil a broad gun safety agenda that includes a plan to pour $900 million in federal money over eight years into anti-gun violence programs in some of the nation’s cities hardest hit by gun violence, according to two senior campaign officials.
Biden is among 10 Democratic White House hopefuls set to take part in Wednesday’s gun safety forum in Las Vegas hosted by the gun control advocacy groups March for Our Lives and Giffords. Aides say Biden will unveil parts of his gun safety agenda during his appearance at the the forum.
Like nearly all of the candidates seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, Biden backs an assault weapons ban, bolstering background checks, and launching a federal buyback program to take military-style firearms off the streets.
But in emphasizing the scourge of urban violence in his gun policy, Biden is trying to underscore to voters in inner city communities that he recognizes the impact violence is having on communities that endure hundreds of gun-related killings per year without getting the same sort of media or political attention as mass shootings.
“I hear the vice president say again and again that the daily acts of gun violence in our (urban) communities may not make national headlines but are just as devastating to survivors’ and victims’ families as gun violence that does make the front page,” said one Biden campaign official, who briefed reporters on the vice president’s policy rollout ahead of Wednesday’s forum.
Biden’s strategy on combating urban violence points to already-tested programs such as Group Violence Intervention, which organizes community leaders to work with individuals likely to commit acts of gun violence, express community demands that gun violence cease, and connect potential perpetrators with social workers and job counselors. Communities that have used such programming have recorded 30% to 60% drop in homicides in districts or neighborhoods that have deployed violence interrupters, according to Giffords.
The former vice president is also proposing spending some of the $900 million on funding hospital-based violence intervention programs that help connect young people injured by gun violence with social and economic services while they are still hospitalized. The thinking is that such early intervention could decrease the likelihood they engage in or are victims of gun violence in the future.
Biden’s proposal calls for the money to be spent in 40 cities — the nation’s 20 cities with the highest per capita homicide rate and the 20 cities with the highest total number of homicides — on intervention programming that has proven to have success, Biden aides said.
Biden isn’t alone in speaking in favor of intervention programs. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has also called for investing money into urban gun violence intervention programs, and has seen his city make progress in reducing homicides and shootings after launching a program called Stand Against Violence Everyday, or S.A.V.E.
As part of a plan to improve public safety and reduce mass incarceration, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts endorsed the federal government’s backing of violence intervention programs “that divert young people from criminal activity, before the police become involved.”
While on the campaign trail, Biden has frequently touted himself as a proven and battle-tested foe of the National Rifle Association, because of his role as a senator in passing the 1994 assault weapons ban.
In the aftermath of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, Biden has also sought to frame President Donald Trump as afraid of taking on the NRA and backing tightened background checks, which polling shows is supported by the vast majority of Americans.
Trump on multiple occasions during his presidency has voiced support for new gun safety measures before backtracking.
“The president has no intestinal fortitude to deal with this,” Biden said in a speech in Iowa last month. “He knows better. His instinct was to say yeah, we’re going to do something on background checks. What’s he doing? Come on. This is disgraceful.”
By making urban violence a high priority in his gun policy agenda, it could also serve Biden well in the African American community, which polls show have provided him with his most steadfast support as 2020 caucuses and primaries near. Black Americans are 10 times more likely than white Americans to die by gun homicide, and 14 times more likely than white Americans to be injured in a gun assault, according to CDC statistics cited by Giffords.
It also provides Biden an opportunity to contrast himself to black voters with Trump, who has said that Baltimore residents are “living in hell” and spoken disparagingly of the “horrible carnage” of gun violence in Chicago.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Joe Biden proposes spending $900M to decrease urban gun violence
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