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By Sending Federal Agents into American Cities, President Trump Endangers Us All

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Federal police officers stand guard during a protest in Portland, Oregon, on July 23, 2020.

After the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers in late May, the nation experienced an unprecedented outcry for fundamental changes in police conduct.

Instead of addressing these demands for accountability, the Trump administration has instead invoked a dangerous “law and order” strategy, which does nothing to make American communities safer from violence, but merely inflames a country already on edge.

The presence and tactics of federal agents, including federal law enforcement officers in unmarked vans grabbing protestors off the streets and tear gassing Mayor Ted Wheeler, have led to violence and violations of protestors’ constitutional rights—some of the same harmful tactics that legislative reform efforts in Oregon and elsewhere are seeking to curb. Members of the House of Representatives are calling on the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security to investigate this excessive use of force against the American public.

With the presidential election less than 100 days away, the difference between President Trump and Joe Biden’s plans to make our country safer from violence could not be starker. As this president urges violence against Americans on Twitter, our next president has dedicated himself to making America safer.

Joe Biden’s plan to reduce gun violence and make communities safer is clear, comprehensive, and data-informed, which is why Giffords endorsed him in March. We know what steps must be taken to reduce violence in American communities. President Trump has access to the same data that we do—he just chooses to ignore it.

Require a background check on every gun sale.

Over 90% of the American people support universal background checks. While that doesn’t include President Trump (most of the time), it does include Joe Biden. Background checks have stopped more than three million illegal gun sales since 1994, but our laws are riddled with loopholes. Under current law, only federally licensed firearms dealers are required to conduct a background check when transferring a firearm. As a result, prohibited people can easily skirt the system and easily obtain a gun at a gun show, online, or from an unlicensed seller.

Joe Biden has committed to working with Congress to pass and sign universal background check legislation like H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act. He has similarly committed to addressing the “Charleston loophole,” which allows a gun sale to proceed at a dealer’s discretion if a background check has not been completed within three business days.

Invest in community-based violence prevention and intervention.

For too long, American communities have failed to invest in effective programs to address gun violence and murder inequality. Research and case studies have shown that through low-cost, community-oriented intervention programs, cities can dramatically reduce gun violence in as little as two years.

Oakland, for example, reduced shootings by 50% over five years by supporting programs that offer both positive and negative incentives to individuals at the highest risk for committing violence. Yet such programs are not effective without consistent funding. Biden’s plan calls for the creation of a $900 million initiative in 40 cities across the country that would save an estimated 12,000 lives over eight years.

Reform and refocus law enforcement efforts to more effectively and justly prevent violence.

Research has long shown that communities’ inability to trust the justice system is a root cause of violence. Communities of color have long been subject to police violence, brutal over-criminalization of minor offenses, and under-protection from lethal violence—all of which make law enforcement less effective.

To begin to reform harmful policing practices, law enforcement agencies must act on the recommendations of the Obama administration’s blue-ribbon Task Force on 21st Century Policing. State and federal lawmakers must also pass legislation, like the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, to reform law enforcement standards and practices. Unlike President Trump, Joe Biden has committed to meaningfully reform the criminal justice system, end the era of mass incarceration, and refocus law enforcement efforts around community policing and prevention of violence.

Strengthen federal oversight tools to ensure accountability for both law enforcement and the gun industry.

Immunity laws have long shielded both law enforcement and the gun industry from accountability in civil courts. Joe Biden supports reforms to repeal these immunity laws and strengthen federal oversight efforts. Building on goals set and actions taken during the Obama administration, Joe Biden plans to direct the Department of Justice to investigate and address systemic police misconduct.

Instead of placing federal agents on the streets to harm peaceful protestors or leaving the gun industry to regulate itself, Joe Biden has committed to providing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) the resources it needs to prevent gun violence before it happens. This includes allowing ATF to modernize its technology, share data with policymakers, and regulate untraceable “ghost guns” like any other firearm.

Make your voices heard at the ballot box this November.

From the East Room of the White House, President Trump declared that city leaders must be held accountable by their residents. The same must be true for federal leaders.

This president has shown time and time again that he is willing to only pay lip service to the country’’s gun violence epidemic. It doesn’t have to be that way. In November, voters have the chance to show President Trump what they think of how he’s handled this moment of reckoning.