Beyond the “Ghost Gun” Ban, We Need Our Leaders to Fund Violence Prevention

President Joe Biden recently delivered a speech promising to address “ghost guns,” untraceable, self-assembled firearms. These firearms are often assembled using parts purchased online. They may also include material from other models. There are many ghost guns in Black and Brown communities, a result of reckless profiteering by gun manufacturers and corporations.

Let’s be clear, Ghost guns are a matter for the administration to address. LIVE FREE commends President Biden, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, for their efforts to ban companies selling kits for assembling guns without a serial number. While action to address ghost guns is long overdue, elected officials must not “ghost” Black and Brown communities ahead of the summer by failing to use American Rescue Plan dollars to scale community violence intervention strategies.

In too many cities across the country, the conversation around safety is taking on an increasingly “tough-on-crime” narrative. We don’t have to make the costly and inefficient exchange of justice for safety or healing for security. The advocacy of Fund PeaceAmerican Rescue Plan dollars can be used to scale up community-based violence interventions.

However, mayors and police chiefs are instead using the lion’s share of these resources to grow already bloated law enforcement departments, even though a more effective and less harmful approach is easily within reach. We will see more violence, mass incarceration and separation of families if elected leaders fail to make investments in community-based violence intervention strategies.

And let’s be clear, the Biden administration has signaled to state and local elected officials that Rescue Plan funds can be used to expand the tool belt of public safety in cities across the country. This United States Treasury Department guidance The American Rescue Plan clearly outlines many uses, including housing, community violence intervention, and summer jobs. Local and state lawmakers’ lack of imagination — and muscle memory of criminalization — are impediments to ensuring public safety in 2022.

Yes, many people in our communities are afraid. All of us want safer and more secure communities. We need visionary leadership and not regressive solutions from a 25 year-old failed playbook on tough on crime, criminalization.

Across the country, there has been widespread coverage on the “rise in crime,” which doesn’t take into account the impacts of a devastating pandemic or persistent joblessness. The narrative about crime provides a convenient pretext for local and state policy makers to ignore much-needed reforms. However, it is vital to ensure the safety of our loved one. Everyone wants to live and work in safe communities. Government intervention must be targeted and precise. Short-term solutions cannot be pursued by policy makers for long-term problems. They can’t return to solutions that only solve one problem and create a multitude of others.

Focusing on “rising crime” will lead policy makers to abandon criminal legal reforms and throw out the baby with the bath water. We know that communities will not be safe if they return to a tough-on crime approach. Building safety means investing into the people and groups that are most affected by the pain. It is impossible to expect communities to be able to provide more support after a traumatic global pandemic and bruising. The federal government knew that states and local jurisdictions were in distress. For this reason, they passed a COVID-19 relief law.

Too many state and local governments use COVID-19 relief funds for police investments. For example, The Guardian reportedCalifornia’s largest cities spent significant amounts of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to support police. This despite the fact that the bill was passed to address food insecurity, job loss, and housing loss caused by COVID-19. Police cannot feed hungry children and they can’t address homelessness. Law enforcement responds to crimes. Their expanded coffers aren’t leading to a reduction in crime.

It is vital that state and local governments provide funding for proven strategies to reduce gun violence and prevent it from happening again. If gun violence prevention programs do not fund credible messengers, clergy outreach, bedside intervention, stipends for persons seeking to leave the gang lifestyle, restorative justice and non-police-affiliated violence intervention programs, they are short-sighted. If policy makers aren’t working to address the issues that cause people to turn to violence in the first place, they aren’t doing the type of work that would lead to short- or long-term reductions in crime.

We are also missing the mark if we try to reach out to victims of violence but fail to connect with them. We must also recognize that these groups — victims and perpetrators — often overlap. We cannot allow elected officials that refuse to engage or tepidly engage with community-based gun violence prevention strategies to obstruct progress.

Many municipalities are currently directing federal funds to anything but strategies that have been shown to reduce gun violence or mass incarceration. We hope that the Biden administration will work with community-based organizations to shift its course away from encouraging more funding for police departments. Both federal and local lawmakers should instead act in the best interests of Black and Brown communities to fund peace.

It is time for communities to unite and create an environment where people can live without gun violence or mass incarceration. Police were never intended to deal with the systemic issues that affect people. Ineffective responses to pain, such as enforcing a criminal law, are what police are trained to do.

We cannot allow policymakers to continue to ignore Black and Brown people.