Opinion | What Biden’s Anti-Crime Agenda Gets Wrong

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The Joe Biden of the 1990s would know exactly what to do—throw cops and enhanced sentences at the problem, toward the goal of arresting more criminals and keeping them off the streets longer. But that was a long time ago, and Biden has since said that approach was a mistake.

So, he’s left with measures that are only tangentially connected to the surge in murders.

To his credit, he acknowledges the need for more cops, and his administration is making it clear to localities that they can use funds from the Covid relief bill to hire them (although it shows how heedless the spending in that bill was that it’s now available for a priority that wasn’t part of the original rationale).

The main thrust of his agenda, though is gun control. This is a political gimme, since it is what Democrats favor anyway. As The Washington Post reported: “The Biden White House sees a political advantage in focusing on gun control as a way to stem the violence. The issue polls well among Democrats and independents, as opposed to stiffening sentences or backing aggressive policing tactics.”

Just because the politics are deemed favorable, though, it doesn’t mean these proposals will be effective. In fact, the focus on guns as such is a misdiagnosis.

There has indeed been a massive surge in gun purchases since the onset of the pandemic and the rioting after the death of George Floyd. The research says 6.5 percent of Americans bought guns in 2020, an increase from 5.3 percent in 2019. But the murder rate had been in a long decline since the 1990s, even as gun laws steadily loosened and millions more guns came into circulation.

If the quantity of guns in the country drove crime in and of itself, American cities never would have seen a historic decline in homicide in the first place.

Biden’s signature gun-control initiative, an assault weapons ban, is a political bridge too far, but even if it were practical, it would prove completely irrelevant to urban crime. Almost all the gun-play in America’s cities involves handguns that wouldn’t be touched by a ban of certain varieties of semi-automatic rifles, or even a ban on all semi-automatic rifles.

Biden is settling for small-bore policies such as a crackdown on gun-sellers who don’t conduct required background checks, or deliberately sell to people not allowed to own guns. If we can do more to enforce current laws and to stop dirty gun dealers, by all means, let’s do it.

These guns surely represent a fraction of a drop in the bucket of the firearms used by gangs and other malefactors, though.

According to a January 2019 Justice Department report based on a survey of prison inmates, the vast majority of criminals who possessed a gun during their offense either bought it on the street or underground (43 percent), or got it from a friend or a family member or as a gift (25 percent). Only 7 percent purchased their firearm from a gun shop, and .8 percent got it from a gun show.

So the Biden gun proposals are crafted to sound good, without doing anything meaningful to stop the mayhem blighting urban America.

The other prong of the Biden agenda is focused on prevention—making it easier for ex-prisoners to find jobs and get housing, community violence intervention programs (attempts to influence people likely to commit violent acts before they actually do), and summer programs for youth. All of this is fine, as far as it goes, but it also will be marginal.

To focus on what’s necessary requires an honest diagnosis of the crime problem.

Over the past year, Democrats have tended to blame the pandemic, and its attendant social disruptions, for the rise in murder. But other countries with pandemic lockdowns saw declines in homicides, and even as the lockdowns have eased up or disappeared here at home, the surge has continued.

It is a sign of the weakness of the pandemic explanation that in his anti-crime remarks on Wednesday, Biden said that the end of the pandemic, and more people being out and about, could drive the crime even higher.

The simplest answer for the rise in murder is that police feel besieged in the wake of the George Floyd unrest and have been more cautious or defensive in their patrolling. Indeed, one credible study found that cities with Black Lives Matter protests from 2014 to 2019 saw increases in murder in the aftermath. All of this comes against the backdrop of a yearslong trend in major cities to limit police stops searching for guns and of the election of progressive district attorneys devoted to trying to keep as many people as possible out of jail.

The Rudy Giuliani-Mike Bloomberg approach that proved so effective in New York City—of backing police to the hilt and aggressively working to get illegal guns off the streets—came to be considered a terrible mistake. But it doesn’t look so bad if the alternative is young men routinely getting gunned down in neighborhoods experiencing intolerable levels of chaos.

If the tough-talking ex-cop Eric Adams, currently leading the New York mayoral race, can win and then deliver on his law-and-order promises, perhaps he can show other cities how to step back from the brink. That Biden felt compelled to offer an anti-crime agenda of his own, no matter how ineffectual, highlights the political stakes.

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Janice Hillhttps://politicsay.co.uk
Janice founded PoliticSay with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered news to the general public with a specific viewpoint for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research. With ample knowledge about the business industry, Janice also contributes her knowledge to the business section of the website. Janice@britmedia360.co.uk
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