In-Depth: Sponsoring Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced this bill to provide federal grants to give communities the funds for evidence-based gun violence intervention and prevention programs:
“Often when we talk about gun violence, the discussion focuses on deadly mass shootings, but in my neighborhood in Newark and urban cities across the country people are experiencing this on a daily basis. The epidemic of everyday gun violence that is ravaging our urban communities has been overlooked for too long, even as many neighborhoods have gun injury rates similar to warzones. It’s going to take bold, innovative, and smart ideas to tackle this challenge and keep our cities safe. This means investing federal resources in community-based violence intervention and prevention programs, which have been proven to reduce gun violence. It’s time we take action, confront this crisis, and implement solutions that work. It’s in the interest of our economy to tackle the issue of gun violence head-on and end the carnage plaguing so many cities. Americans should not be left footing the bill because Congress lacks the courage and resolve to implement strategies that will save lives and keep our streets safe.”
Sen. Booker says urban gun violence is particularly important to him because of where he lives in Newark, New Jersey:
"I'm living with a sense of urgency on this problem because [I] go home to my community, like millions of Americans who live in communities where these weapons, where these gunshots are real every single day. There are millions of Americans where this is a daily nightmare, where we're surrendering our freedoms to fear in this country."
Original cosponsor Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) adds:
“In Chicago and communities across the country, people are experiencing gun violence on a daily basis. Just last weekend, forty people in Chicago were shot, five fatally. But legislation like the Break the Cycle of Violence Act could help change this reality. It would provide crucial investments and federal resources for community-based violence intervention and prevention programs, which have been proven to reduce gun violence. It is time for my Republican colleagues to join us in working to end the gun violence epidemic.”
Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, co-founder of Giffords and a survivor of gun violence herself, adds:
“Solving our country’s gun violence epidemic cannot happen until we address the violence that rarely makes the headlines. It’s past time we gave leaders in the neighborhoods most impacted, who can help those most at-risk, the resources and support they need to stop violence in their communities. We know the programs funded in this bill are proven to work. Now Senator Booker and Representative Horsford are leading a charge to make sure we bring them to every city struggling with this problem. We’re grateful for their work to ensure we put federal dollars behind community-based efforts that are proven to reduce gun violence and save lives.”
Writing for Bearing Arms, Tom Knighton expressed appreciation for this bill’s focus on violence prevention rather than gun control:
“The issue when it comes to violence isn’t guns and it never has been guns. Once upon a time, a teenager could have a machine gun delivered to your front porch with nothing more than a check or money order in the right amount. We didn’t have some of this kind of violence in those days despite the easy access to guns. No, the issue is something else within our culture has shifted. A lot of it can be tied to the rise of the gangs. Plans like this can, at least in theory, provide a warning that they’re being watched and offer them a way out. Of course, those threats need to be followed through on, but providing an escape hatch is something some of these people may be looking for. I hate to say it, but I’m intrigued by Booker’s plan. I’m not crazy about tax dollars going for things like this, but I’d much rather see it go for things like this than Beto O’Rourke-style gun confiscation schemes.”
This legislation has eight Democratic Senate cosponsors. Its House companion is sponsored by Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) and has two Democratic House cosponsors. Neither bill has received a committee vote as a November 2, 2019.
Giffords, LIVE FREE Project of Faith in Action, Brady, and Team ENOUGH support this legislation.
Of Note: According to Sen. Booker’s office, research shows that a combination of community-oriented intervention programs and commonsense gun control policies could cut gun violence rates in urban cities in half in as little as two years. While the U.S. as a country already has a higher-than-average homicide rate, U.S. urban centers experience homicide rates that are nearly 10 times the national average — and this disproportionately affects young people of color, particularly black men (who, despite being only about 6% of the U.S. population, account for about 51% of homicide victims). In a 2015 Guardian investigation, Aliza Aufrichtig, Lois Beckett, Jan Diehm and Jamiles Lartey found that of the over 13,000 gun homicides in the U.S. in 2015, half were clustered in only 127 cities and towns even though those geographies contained less than a quarter of the US. population.
High gun violence rates affect certain minority communities more than others. For example, in New Jersey, black men ages 18-24% are 90 times more likely than their white male peers to be victims of a gun homicide. From 2012-2017, African-American children and teens were 14 times more likely than their white peers to be shot to death. And, over the same time period, Hispanic and Native American children and teens were three times more likely to be shot to death as compared to their white peers.
In total, more than 117,000 people are shot in the U.S. on an annual basis. This costs Americans $229 billion a year (over $700 per person per year). Gun violence reduces the quality of life for all Americans by engendering concerns about safety, raising taxes, and limiting choices about where to live, work, travel, and attend school. Public policy scholars Philip Cook and Jens Ludwig conclude, “Whether we recognize it or not, gun violence is a problem for all communities—one we must work together to solve.”
Part of the cost of gun violence is related to medical and criminal costs after a shooting. A single gun homicide costs taxpayers $448,000 in medical and criminal justice expenses. In total, gun violence costs taxpayers over $1.8 billion a year, including at least $149.9 million in healthcare costs and criminal justice expenses.
Sen. Booker’s office cites several studies that show violence prevention and intervention programs work. In Richmond, California, a multimillion-dollar investment in violence reduction programs reduced gun homicides by 70% over the period 2007-2016. In Massachusetts, gun homicide rates fell by 35% from 2010-2015 after the state implemented public health approaches through its Safe and Successful Youth initiative. Over the same period, national gun homicide rates rose by 14%. Finally, a citywide violence reduction plan in Oakland, California has led to a 50% fall in gun homicides and nonfatal shootings since 2012.
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / South_agency)