The number of firearms deaths has jumped by one-third since the beginning of the pandemic. The White House promises to track “ghost guns” and the smuggling corridor between the country’s South and Northeast.
“Enough is enough.” The increase in crime in the United States is pushing Joe Biden to take a tougher approach when it comes to public safety. The American president went to New York on Thursday to meet with New York’s new mayor, Eric Adams, a few days after the death of two young police officers who were killed in the line of duty. The event brought the increase in violence in major American cities back to center stage.
The rise in crime began with the pandemic in 2020, but at the time, the subject was politically sensitive for Democrats: the death of George Floyd, an African American killed by a white police officer, led to an anti-police movement (“Defund the Police”). Although Biden never joined in, he now fears being trapped by the Republicans, who are making the rise in crime a factor in November’s midterm elections.
According to the website Gun Violence Archive, 20,800 people died as a result of firearms last year in the United States (aside from suicide), an increase of 6.7% compared with 2020, and a one-third increase over prior years.
Biden’s visit to New York is primarily a political message. “We’re not about defunding, we’re about funding,” the president asserted. In advance of Biden’s visit, the administration pointed to the funding bill pending in Congress, and the special funds that were already voted on at the time of the latest economic aid plans.
Among the measures the Biden administration is now making a priority is a promise to track unlicensed gun dealers and “ghost guns,” so called because they are unclassified, assembled piece-by-piece or created from 3D printing. The Justice Department is also tasked with eliminating the flow of contraband arms along the “iron pipeline,” a traffic corridor that heads up I-95 from the South toward the big cities of the East Coast, where gun possession laws are more restrictive.
Last year, 6,000 firearms were confiscated in New York, although they are illegal in the city, and 10% of those under the age of 18 who were arrested were carrying a firearm (compared to 2.5% in 2019), as Mayor Adams recently pointed out. Adams, a former New York Police Department officer, also criticized a judicial system that is still paralyzed by the pandemic.
Beyond gun crimes, criminal activity in major cities once again is making headlines more frequently, between safety on public transportation in New York, revenge killings on California freeways or widespread looting from major department stores. The more general struggle against the proliferation of firearms in the United States, a struggle that the Democrats kept quiet during the presidential campaign, has, on the other hand, has largely remained a dead letter.