As my colleague Ranjit Singh wrote about earlier today, Joe Biden is set to announce the creation of a White House “Office of Gun Violence Prevention” this Friday. What does that mean, exactly, and what can gun owners expect from this new outfit.
Well, for starters the gun control lobby won’t just have a seat at the table in the Biden administration. Going forward they’ll have their own office in the White House.. at least as long as a Democrat occupies the executive mansion. Ranjit describes the move as “a dark development, an ember that should be taken with the seriousness of a five-alarm fire, because that’s what it’s going to lead to,” and I don’t disagree, though it also has the potential to turn into a dumpster fire for the anti-gun groups and the Democratic establishment intent on weaponizing the federal government against a fundamental civil right.
I don’t expect the move will have much of an impact on the actual policies coming out of the executive branch, given that the gun control lobby already has Biden’s ear and full-throated support. Biden’s announcement is part payback for the support of gun control groups like Everytown, Giffords, and Brady, which will play a large role in staffing the new office after giving him their ringing endorsement for re-election a couple of months ago. But it’s also a transfer of wealth of sorts, funneling taxpayer money to “gun violence prevention efforts” around the country, many of which are aimed more at eradicating gun ownership than crimes in which a gun is used.
A handful of cities and states around the country have already established similar offices, none of which have done anything to actually reduce violent crime. In Colorado, for example, the state’s Office of Gun Violence Prevention was the subject of a scathing audit earlier this year which noted that after almost two years, little money was flowing to the very organizations that were supposed to benefit from the office’s attention. After the audit was released grants started being disbursed; in at least one case being directed to an activist with the state’s largest gun control outfit. As public radio station KUNC reported last month:
Last week, [Laney] Sheffel helped teach a classroom of teenage girls at a summer camp in Denver how they could all help prevent gun violence.
Sheffel is a campaign manager for Colorado Ceasefire, the state’s largest gun safety advocacy group.
For two hours, she and two teenage interns taught the girls about Colorado’s new red flag laws, which let people ask a judge to temporarily take guns away from someone who poses a risk to themselves or others.
They played videos full of data about gun violence and methods to reduce it.
The girls also learned what to do if they’re concerned about how a parent or adult is storing a firearm.
“Just totally stop what you’re doing, don’t touch it. Leave the situation and go tell an adult,” Sheffel told the children.
I’m not sure what’s more ridiculous; subjecting summer campers to a lecture on “red flag” laws or a gun control activist like Sheffel plagiarizing the NRA’s Eddie Eagle curriculum to tell teenagers what to do if they see a gun; stop, don’t touch, run away, tell an adult. The sad truth is that the NRA would never find itself the recipient of the kind of grants that are being handed out in Colorado, though anti-gunners can crib their messaging and be financially rewarded for it.
In many ways these offices operate like welfare for the gun control lobby, giving them funds they’d never have access to otherwise and providing steady employment for handpicked gun control operatives. At least, that’s what the system looks like when it’s functioning as intended. What we’ve seen in cities like Philadelphia and Atlanta, on the other hand, is that these offices are often plagued by bureaucracy and inefficiency… which might not be a bad thing as far as gun owners are concerned.
Last November the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on the sorry state of the city’s Community Crisis Intervention Program, which is seen as the key component of Philly’s Office of Violence Prevention. Despite millions of dollars in funding, the office found that the CCIP is “disorganized, failing to properly train and empower staffers, struggling to achieve basic goals, and not ready to be evaluated on whether its efforts are meaningfully reducing the city’s gun violence.” That report came as Philadelphia was in the midst of another year of more than 500 homicides, and was part of larger concerns over how the office was actually working in practice.
Some community advocates, meanwhile, have criticized the city’s efforts to distribute funding to grassroots organizations as “the new hustle,” with money being sent to groups haphazardly and without evaluation of what’s effective.City Council members grew frustrated two years ago when the Office of Violence Prevention stumbled in answering some basic questions during an emergency hearing on the worsening shootings crisis.And evaluations of anti-violence initiatives beyond CCIP — including programs that give grants to individuals and community groups — have been ongoing for years.Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration has defended its approach, pointing to what it’s called nearly $1 billion in public safety spending this fiscal year. Though the vast majority of that is directed toward the Police Department, more than $200 million is earmarked for initiatives including a jobs program, investing in quality-of-life issues such as addressing blight, and sending additional money to the Department of Parks and Recreation to expand recreation center hours.
The cash transfers to these anti-violence groups aren’t having an impact in Philly, but in Atlanta similar groups have struggled to get funding at all. Two years after former mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms established the city’s Office of Gun Violence Prevention, the office doesn’t appear to be doing much, if anything, to combat violent crime. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported back in March:
The idea was that the mayor needs a non-law enforcement unit that wakes up every morning focused on strategies to reduce gun violence and help coordinate and provide oversight of various anti-violence initiatives. But the office has struggled in its first year, losing its founding director after just 11 months, and failing to get off the ground a new $5 million anti-violence street outreach program that was supposed to be its first initiative in 2022.The program, known as Cure Violence, was supposed to be part of an ambitious proposal to invest some $35 million in “violence prevention,” a newer concept in the world of crime-fighting, that focuses on strategies outside of law enforcement.Cure Violence, which is a national organization based in Chicago, would work with localnonprofits to send workers into neighborhoods to diffuse tense situations before they lead to gun violence. The workers are called “violence interrupters” and often have had past run-ins with violence or the law. They use that background to gain credibility on the streets with hopes of reaching those most at-risk to commit acts of violence or fall victim to violence. The Annie E. Casey Foundation funded the creation of a Cure Violence outpost in summer 2020. This was the first time the city was going to become a partner.But the new city program has yet to start, despite the procurement office putting out a Request for Proposal for the local non-profits back in December 2021.“This money is just sitting there,” said Volkan Topalli a professor of Criminal Justice at Georgia State University, back in November. He applied to be one of the local non-profits as part of team with GSU and Emory, and only found out they didn’t get it in October, after nearly a year of waiting.“It’s money that can be used right now today to save lives,” he continued.