WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) released the following statement on President Obama’s plan to reduce gun violence:
“While I want to closely examine the executive and legislative proposals set forth by the President, they include some very positive and reasonable steps to address the problem. The American people deserve a thoughtful effort to reach a comprehensive solution to address gun violence. It is critical that this includes increased funding for local law enforcement programs like the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Program, the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) Program, and the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program, as well as measures to address mental health. I continue to be a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, and believe in the right of citizens to own guns for their own protection as well as for hunting, recreation, and collection. Nonetheless, after reflecting on the power of the weapon and the number of bullets that hit each child in Sandy Hook, the reinstatement of a ban on military-style weapons and high capacity magazines are two common-sense steps that I support. Moving forward, my hope is that Republicans and Democrats will come together and act in response to this tragedy. I remain optimistic that the sense of urgency we all felt after Sandy Hook will not be diminished by time or any partisan battles.”
Senator Casey had written a letter to Vice President Biden earlier this month to request funding for these programs, which can be found below:
The Honorable Joe Biden
Vice President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Vice President Biden,
Following the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, I deeply appreciate your leadership in seeking solutions to prevent violent crime. I also admire your long history of support for local law enforcement officials, both in the Senate and as Vice President. As the Nation considers all options to address this serious issue, including appropriate support for mental health programs and reevaluation of existing gun policies, I urge the inclusion of increased funding for local law enforcement as one element of a comprehensive approach.
I share your appreciation for law enforcement officials that act as first responders and prevent crime in their communities. Accordingly, I urge your task force to include a recommendation of higher, sufficient levels of funding for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, which was established by legislation you sponsored and advanced in the Senate, the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne-JAG) program and the Bulletproof Vest Partnership program. Support for these effective programs must be a key component of an overall violent crime reduction strategy and should be reflected in the President’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget.
As you know, local law enforcement officials are uniquely positioned to prevent violent crime and to respond when it occurs. Since 1993, communities across the Nation have successfully leveraged COPS grants, including COPS hiring programs grants, to prevent violent crime and to ensure immediate and thorough responses to crimes. Similarly, the Byrne-JAG program has supported innovation and helped law enforcement agencies implement evidence-based strategies, and the Bulletproof Vest Partnership program has enabled departments to purchase much-needed vests. Unfortunately, funding for these programs has decreased dramatically in recent years. Funds appropriated for COPS hiring programs have declined from $298 million in Fiscal Year 2010 to $141 million for Fiscal Year 2012. Over the same period, funding for Byrne-JAG was reduced from $519 million to $470 million and from $30 million to $24 million for the Bulletproof Vest Partnership program.
News reports indicate that law enforcement officials in Newtown, Connecticut responded very quickly and that their arrival may have been the reason that the alleged killer ended his rampage. As your task force considers the many important issues to avoid another such tragic event, we must recognize and support the critical role played by first responders, as well as equip them with the necessary resources. I look forward to continued collaboration between us and our staffs to address this important issue.
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator