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Can Biden Chill the Spike in Gun Violence? He Knows He Must Try

Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

Let’s start with a guessing game:

Which presidential hopeful made the following boast about how he was tougher on crime than even than “law-and-order” President Richard Nixon?

“Every time Richard Nixon, when he was running in 1972, would say, ‘Law and order,’ the Democratic match or response was, ‘Law and order with justice’ — whatever that meant. And I would say, ‘Lock the S.O.B.s up.’ ”

Who said that? Donald Trump? Ronald Reagan? George Wallace?

Nope, it was Joe Biden.

Yes, although times have changed and so has Biden. In judging now-President Biden’s actions to curb what threatens to be another crime epidemic, it’s helpful to remember how tough on crime he sounded on the Senate floor on behalf of his signature legislation, the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which President Bill Clinton would later sign.

 

And, fast forward, it also is helpful to remember how much that legislation was attacked by his party’s progressive wing, particularly by Black activists, during last year’s presidential campaign.

Does he face similar challenges now? Yes, although times have changed.

Back in the “Bonfire of the Vanities” urban crime wave of the late 1980s and early ’90s, both parties found a lot to like in the bill. It put more cops on the street, set stiffer sentencing for drug offenses, created incentives for the construction of more prisons, and temporarily banned so-called assault weapons.

Sweetening the package for the center-left, it included the Violence Against Women Act, Community Oriented Policing Services and a 10-year ban on military-style “assault weapons.”

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