In a post-State of the Union briefing at the White House, Bruce Reed, chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, addressed the issue of the gun violence that has for years wreaked havoc in African-American and urban communities.
"The tragedy in Newtown shocked the conscience of the country and brought attention to the issue of gun violence, but there's an equivalent of a Newtown going on every day in terms of deaths across the country and has been particularly pronounced in a number of urban areas," he said.
When Biden met with big city mayors and police chiefs, they were strongly in favor of background checks that will make it much harder for criminals to purchase guns. They and the administration also support a proposal for stricter penalties for gun trafficking and straw purchases. As Reed also noted, however, many cities have pretty tough gun laws, including Chicago, where President Obama discussed gun violence today. But they can't control what happens outside of their borders.
"If the girlfriend of a gang member can buy a gun legally at a gun store, and then sell or give it to the gang member, that's how guns make their way into the heart of the hardest-hit places," Reed said. "They want to make it easier for prosecutors to go after the straw purchasers so they can shut down the illegal gun trade. And then more police on the street generally is one of the most effective prevention strategies to keep communities safe and prevent crime from happening in the first place."
Reed said that in addition to the obvious solutions, like more in-depth background checks and increased access to mental health services, addressing the broader issue of inequality also is key to reducing gun crime.
"Anything we do to make those local budgets a little stronger, makes it easier for them to afford after-school programs places need. There are a lot of other things to do to prevent gang violence and violence gen over the long haul," he said. "What's worrisome about guns and the illegal gun trade is that they make every problem more acute."
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(Photo: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)