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Booker, Horsford Introduce Groundbreaking Legislation to Break the Cycle of Urban Gun Violence

Bill would create nationwide strategy to build safer communities and save lives by investing in evidence-based violence reduction initiatives

October 16, 2019
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WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV), today released groundbreaking legislation to reduce urban gun violence in American cities. The Break the Cycle of Violence Act would provide federal grants to communities for evidence-based gun violence intervention and prevention programs designed to interrupt cycles of violence.

 

Research has shown that a combination of community-oriented intervention programs and commonsense gun control policies can cut gun violence rates in urban cities in half in as little as two years. In our nation’s urban centers, homicide rates are nearly 10 times the national average and has a disproportionate impact on young people of color. In fact, black men, who make up just 6 percent of the U.S. population, account for 51 percent of all homicide victims. In New Jersey, black men ages 18–24 are 90 times more likely to be victims of a gun homicide than their white male peers. From 2012 to 2017, African-American children and teens were 14 times as likely to be shot to death as their white peers. Hispanic and Native American children and teens were both nearly three times as likely to be shot to death as their white peers.

 

“Often when we talk about gun violence, the discussion focuses on deadly mass shootings, but in my neighborhood in Newark and urban cities across the country people are experiencing this on a daily basis,” Senator Booker said. “The epidemic of everyday gun violence that is ravaging our urban communities has been overlooked for too long, even as many neighborhoods have gun injury rates similar to warzones. It’s going to take bold, innovative, and smart ideas to  tackle this challenge and keep our cities safe. This means investing federal resources in community-based violence intervention and prevention programs, which have been proven to reduce gun violence. It’s time we take action, confront this crisis, and implement solutions that work.”

 

While the human cost of gun violence is agonizing, the economic costs for communities and taxpayers is similarly staggering. Gun violence costs the United States $229 billion every year—with each American bearing $700 of this cost annually. A single gun homicide costs taxpayers $448,000 in medical and criminal justice expenses. The Break the Cycle of Violence Act would be an effective solution to saving both lives and taxpayer dollars. In New Jersey, gun violence costs taxpayers more than $1.8 billion each year, with at least $149.9 million in health care costs and criminal justice expenses. If New Jersey reduced the number of gun homicides in the state by just 10 percent, taxpayers would see a savings of $12.1 million.

 

“It’s in the interest of our economy to tackle the issue of gun violence head-on and end the carnage plaguing so many cities. Americans should not be left footing the bill because Congress lacks the courage and resolve to implement strategies that will save lives and keep our streets safe,” Senator Booker said.

 

“The gun violence epidemic takes the lives of far too many people in our community. But the most tragic part? These deaths are preventable—and this legislation is an important step forward to get ahead of this senseless violence; to allow our constituents to come together and stem this cruelty in their communities,” Rep. Horsford said. “As a Congressman, representing part of the city that endured the most devastating gun violence incident in recent history, it is my job and my mission to ensure my constituents never have to feel that same distress — this legislation helps me in that mission. With this bill, my constituents will have the funding they need to reach the young people at the highest risk for violence or those who have been impacted by gun violence previously, and stop this cycle in its tracks.”

 

“Far from the national spotlight, day-to-day shootings plague communities all across this country,” Robin Lloyd, Managing Director at Giffords said. “Every single one of these incidents is a tragedy for the victims and the larger community. And what’s even more frustrating is that these shootings are preventable. We know what works. It’s time Congress does something about it - and that’s just what Senator Booker and Representative Horsford are doing. We’re grateful for their leadership and for introducing this legislation that will put federal dollars behind community-based efforts that are proven to reduce gun violence and save lives.”

 

Several studies have shown that the violence prevention and intervention programs this bill would fund have been successful in reducing gun violence in their communities. Richmond, California invested millions of dollars in violence reduction programs and saw a 70 percent drop in gun homicides between 2007 and 2016. In Massachusetts, gun homicide rates fell by 35 percent from 2010 to 2015 when they implemented public health approaches with its Safe and Successful Youth Initiative, while national rates increased 14 percent within that same period. In Oakland, California, gun homicides and nonfatal shootings have fallen by 50 percent since 2012, as a result of a citywide violence reduction plan, known as Oakland Ceasefire.

 

The Break the Cycle of Violence Act would provide federal grants to communities that experience 20 or more homicides per year and have a homicide rate at least twice the national average, or communities that demonstrate a unique and compelling need for additional resources to address gun and group-related violence. Each grant awarded would be renewable over five years and funds will be commensurate with the scope of the proposal  and the demonstrated need.

 

The grants would be used to implement the following violence reduction initiatives:

  • Hospital-based violence intervention programs (HVIP) that provide intensive counseling, peer support, case management, mediation, and social services to patients recovering from gunshot wounds and other violent injuries. Research has shown that violently injured patients are at high risk of retaliating with violence themselves and being revictimized by violence in the near future. Evaluations of HVIPs have found that patients who received HVIP services were four times less likely to be convicted of a violent crime and roughly four times less likely to be subsequently reinjured by violence than patients who did not receive HVIP services.
  • Evidence-based street outreach programs that treat gun violence as a communicable disease and work to interrupt its transmission among community members. These public health-centered initiatives use street outreach workers to build relationships with high-risk individuals in their communities and connect them with intensive counseling, mediation, peer support, and social services in order to reduce their risk of violence. Evaluations have found that these programs are associated with significant reductions in gun violence, with some sites reporting up to 70 percent reductions in homicides or assaults.
  • Group violence intervention strategies, which are a form of problem-oriented policing that provides targeted social services and support to individuals at highest risk for involvement in community violence, and a process for community members to voice a clear demand for the violence to stop. This strategy also communicates that there will be swift accountability for those who continue to perpetrate violence. This approach coordinates law enforcement, service providers, and community engagement efforts to reduce violence among a small, identifiable segment of the population that is responsible for the vast majority of gun violence in most cities.

Background on Booker's work fighting to end the gun violence epidemic:

 

Since his time as a tenant lawyer, City Council member, and mayor of Newark, Booker has seen the impact of gun violence first-hand. He is the only Senator who goes home to a low-income inner-city community that is disproportionately affected by violent crime. As a result, Booker has been a forceful advocate for common-sense gun safety laws during his time in the Senate. He is a cosponsor of a number of measures to help reduce gun violence by, among other things, increasing funding of gun violence prevention research, strengthening the current background check system, and ensuring that weapons meant for the battlefield are kept off of America's streets. Over the summer, Booker also called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the Senate back in session to vote on gun control legislation in response to a series of fatal mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. Below is a full list of the gun safety bills Booker has co-sponsored this session of Congress: the Background Check Expansion Act, the Assault Weapons Ban of 2019, the Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act, the Gun Violence Prevention Research Act, the Keep Americans Safe Act, the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, the Disarm Hate Act, Keeping Gun Dealers Honest Act of 2019, the 3D Printed Gun Safety Act of 2019, and the Federal Firearm Licensing Act.