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Baltimore at center of Biden administration strategy being announced today to try to curb gun violence

Baltimore figures prominently in a strategy being unveiled by the White House today to try to curb gun violence and violent crime across the nation during the summer months and beyond.

Mayor Brandon Scott is among a group of local officials scheduled to meet with President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland this afternoon to discuss the new effort. Afterward, Biden and Garland are to deliver remarks focused on gun crime prevention.

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Baltimore is among 14 cities or counties being targeted by the administration to participate in community violence intervention programs.

The programs aim to use trusted community “messengers” to link people to various social and economic services “to reduce the likelihood of violence as an answer to conflict,” according to a White House fact sheet.

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Funding for the locally-based programs is available through the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion bill approved by Congress in March that was tied to COVID-19 relief. The legislation contained $122 billion in K-12 schools funding that the administration says can be used for violence prevention.

Baltimore and the 13 other jurisdictions are to form a “collaborative” whose representatives will meet to assess strategies “that reduce gun violence and strengthen community-based infrastructure to enhance public safety for children, families, and communities, and to advance equity,” the fact sheet said.

While the meetings will occur over the next 18 months, an immediate goal is “to anticipate and respond to the potential rise in violence this summer,” according to the White House materials.

Among those partnering with Baltimore will be Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, Detroit, Atlanta and other urban centers struggling to contain violent crime.

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The community effort is also to be supported by charities, foundations and other organizations, including the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore.

The White House said its strategy includes cracking down with a “zero tolerance” policy on gun dealers who run afoul of federal law.

The administration has expressed frustration with the Republican-led Senate over gun violence. The Senate has not acted upon several related House bills, including one closing loopholes on background checks of firearms purchasers.

Scott, a Democrat, who took office in December, plans to discuss Baltimore’s efforts to curb violence, including the city’s partnership with Everytown for Gun Safety.

Others scheduled to participate, according to the White House, are mayors Steve Alexander of Rapid City, South Dakota, and Danielle Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County; New Jersey attorney general Gurbir Grewal; and police chief Murphy Paul Jr., of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Also invited are DeVone Boggan and Eddie Bocanegra, who oversee programs in northern California and Chicago, respectively, to try to curb gun violence.

Since March, Baltimore has been partnering with the nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety to develop the Gun Trafficking Intelligence Platform, a program that integrates data from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ e-Trace system into local policing. The system allows participating law enforcement agencies to submit firearm traces and ballistic evidence to a national database to compare to the police department’s own data on crime and the city’s ShotSpotter gunshot detection network.

Baltimore is the first city to partner with the organization, founded and largely funded by billionaire businessman and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Baltimore, which has suffered more than 300 homicides annually for the last six consecutive years, has experienced 162 homicides so far in 2021 — 10 more than this time last year. Another 329 non-fatal shootings have been investigated, compared to 280 at this time last year, according to the police department.

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