Biden unveils strategy to combat US crime wave
President Joe Biden has announced a five-point strategy to combat surging levels of violent crime in the US, with a particular focus on gun violence.
Mr Biden outlined new measures that aim to curtail rogue gun dealers and illegal gun trafficking.
He also called on cities and states to use the direct aid from his Covid-19 relief bill on public safety efforts.
The remarks come amid a nationwide surge in homicides and as legislation on gun control has stalled in Congress.
Several sweeping gun reforms have failed to garner adequate Republican support in either chamber, where Democrats hold slim majorities.
But the Biden administration has made gun control a central plank in stemming violent crime.
“No-one needs to have a weapon that can fire over 30, 40, 50, even up to 100 rounds — unless you think the deer are wearing kevlar vests or something,” said Mr Biden on Wednesday.
The Democrat recently hosted several big city mayors at the White House for a discussion on crime prevention.
The administration’s strategy proposes investing in community violence intervention programmes, employment opportunities and summer activities for teenagers and young adults, and support for formerly incarcerated Americans re-entering their communities.
In March, the FBI released preliminary 2020 statistics showing a significant jump – 25% – in murders from the year before. So far, the upward trend has continued into 2021.
The bureau will release its official numbers in September. If early projections bear out, it will be one of the largest homicide increases ever reported.
“This was a large scale national increase in violence,” Jeff Asher, co-founder of AH Datalytics and former analyst for the CIA and Department of Defense, told the BBC.
But even with this steep rise, the murder rate is still far lower than than in the early 1990s, when it was almost double the current figure.
And crime overall – including rapes, robbery and other property crime – dropped by about 6% in 2020, among the largest decreases on record.
Some analysts have blamed the wave of homicides on the Covid-19 pandemic, although research indicates that global crime rates fell or were stable as public interactions declined amid lockdowns.
Other analysts see the cause as low police morale after the murder of George Floyd last year in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the ensuing civil unrest that swept US cities.
A University of Utah study pinpointed the spike in US homicides to late May 2020, when Mr Floyd was killed by an officer.
Gun sales increased last year, as did reports of domestic violence. According to Mr Asher, there was also evidence that Americans carried firearms more frequently in 2020.
Data on the causes of murders in 2020 is not yet widely available, Mr Asher said, but in 2019, 74% of homicides were gun-related.
Ahead of Mr Biden’s speech, the Justice Department also announced a new team aimed a tackling gun trafficking in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington DC and San Francisco.