Gun Violence Prevention Woven Into Biden’s Infrastructure Plan

March 31, 2021, 9:35 PM

Tucked into President Joe Biden‘s $2.25 trillion infrastructure proposal is an item that satisfies a longstanding wish of gun violence prevention advocates: $5 billion for violence prevention programs.

The money, which would be spent over eight years, would mark an increase in federal spending on violence prevention if added to the Justice Department’s existing efforts. A Biden administration official confirmed Wednesday afternoon that the proposal is targeted at gun violence prevention, adding that these programs help people find jobs.

The department’s signature crime-prevention grants, run through the Office of Justice Programs, received $484 million this fiscal year, down from $547 million the year prior. Another department community policing program received $386 million this fiscal year, up from $343 million the year before.

This is “arguably the largest funding for gun violence prevention in our nation’s history,” said Christian Heyne, who leads policy for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The Community Justice Action Fund, a nonprofit led by gun violence prevention advocates of color, called it a “historic step.”

However, Biden’s proposed amount would still represent a fraction of the federal government’s total spending of trillions per year, and the money could still be used for activities that don’t necessarily deter gun violence.

The grants can also become a political football. The Trump administration tried to withhold millions of grant money from more than a dozen states, for example, after they refused to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement and the administration labeled them “sanctuary cities.”

States and cities have in the past spent portions of the money, in addition to funding from other Justice Department programs, on addressing gun violence, such as one in Virginia that identified gunshot victims who are at risk of repeat injury while they’re in the hospital. They’ve also spent it on law enforcement functions, such as when New Jersey used it on prosecutor training or task forces targeting gangs and narcotics.

(Everytown for Gun Safety advocates for universal background checks and other gun control measures. Bloomberg Law is operated by entities controlled by Michael Bloomberg, who serves as a member of Everytown for Gun Safety’s advisory board.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Courtney Rozen in Washington at crozen@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Bernie Kohn at bkohn@bloomberglaw.com; Andrew Childers at achilders@bloomberglaw.com

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