A new political tone over gun violence?

As shootings rise, a primary race in New York and President Biden’s anti-crime package reflect a more nuanced approach to crime.

AP
New York City mayoral candidate Eric Adams mingles with supporters during his election night party June 22.

In more than 100 countries, the homicide rate has been falling over the past 13 years. Not so in the United States. In the past 18 months, starting before the pandemic, the murder rate has risen 25% to 30%, mainly in big cities, with warnings of a violent summer. The reasons remain unclear but combined with last year’s movement for racial justice and police reform, it could be creating a new political dynamic. More voters and their leaders might be listening for nuanced solutions rather than highlighting differences in how to curb gun deaths.

One example is President Joe Biden’s latest package of crime-fighting measures announced on Wednesday. Unlike his plan in April that focused on gun control, this one goes further by helping local communities in hiring more police, creating more jobs for teens this summer, providing more assistance for those leaving prison, and improving “community-based intervention” for potential perpetrators of gun violence – as well as implementing more steps to rein in the sale of guns.

That sort of balanced, hard-and-soft approach was reflected in Tuesday’s primary in New York City to select a Democratic candidate for this fall’s race for mayor.

The largest vote-getter, Eric Adams, is a former police captain and a Black leader who wants to boost tools for policing while also reforming the police department in the nation’s largest city. Shootings in New York have gone up 68% this year, making crime the most important issue in the June 22 contest among 13 candidates in the primary. Some candidates sought to reduce funding for police. Others were pro-police.

Mr. Adams proved popular with a centrist approach. “We want safety and justice. We don’t have to surrender the safety we deserve for the justice we need,” he says.

Perhaps the national debate over gun violence has turned. “America has to figure out what it in fact wants, because right now there’s a lot of confusion,” Bill Bratton, a former police chief in Boston, New York, and Los Angeles, told CNBC.

As mayors of big cities cry for help to stem a wave of gun crime – Minnesota’s National Guard is on standby to assist Minneapolis police – the old political divisions over finding solutions just won’t do. Most other countries have reduced their homicide rates. The U.S. certainly can.

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