Updated: Jan 24
Attorney General Merrick Garland says the federal government wants to create a "comprehensive" response to the scourge of gun crime that involves working more with cities and states. "At the Justice Department, we stand shoulder to shoulder with you in the fight against violent crime and we will use every tool at our disposal to protect our communities," Garland told the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Friday, NPR reports. The Council on Criminal Justice think tank estimates that murders rose seven percent last year, based on data from large cities, with Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Portland and at least 10 other places seeing record numbers of homicides.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said communities need a variety of help from the federal government.
"The challenge of the last few years is that too much of the debate has been either-or," said Lucas, who chairs the mayors' Criminal and Social Justice Committee. "It is either law enforcement — police officers on the street and funding them — or you invest in programs in your community, violence interruption, cure violence models, etc." Kansas City saw 182 homicides in 2021, the second-deadliest year in its history. Lucas said the Justice Department under former President Trump flooded many cities with federal agents. Now Lucas wants another kind of flood. "Resources that help us fund more of our social work programs, particularly our work with young people, that's the sort of change we need from this administration," he said. "And I think mayors are waiting to see when that will happen... " Last year, DOJ awarded $139 million for hiring more cops on the street. Garland said the department wants to invest in social workers, community violence interrupters and programs to help people with mental illness. There's a need for more enforcement of gun laws already on the books, and a new leader for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.