Biden and his crime bill

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, commonly referred to as the crime bill, marked a pivotal point in U.S. legislative history. Sponsored over a quarter-century ago by then-Senator Joe Biden, this bill has been the subject of intense debate and scrutiny, particularly regarding its impact on the African American community.

Historical Context and Policy Justification

During the 2020 Democratic National Convention, the Violence Against Women Act, included in this broad bill, was mentioned. However, discussions seldom delve into the bill’s more controversial parts, which have sparked heated debates about its social implications. Since the beginning of his presidential campaign, Joe Biden has repeatedly been questioned about his role in shaping this law, highlighted during the selection of his running mate when Karen Bass, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), provided an enriching historical perspective.

Although the original intent of the law was to increase incarceration to combat crime, its effectiveness has been questioned, revealing a complicated picture of its true impact. Parts of the law, such as the Violence Against Women Act and the assault weapons ban, remain popular among Democrats, while others have prompted a critical reassessment of their long-term consequences.

Support and Criticism within the African American Community

It’s crucial to highlight that, according to a 1994 Gallup poll, 58% of African Americans supported the bill, compared to 49% of whites. Black mayors of cities plagued by an unprecedented wave of violent crime also showed their support, as emphasized by Kurt L. Schmoke, mayor of Baltimore, when pushing Congress for bipartisan support for the legislation.


Reexamining the Long-term Impact

After more than two decades, it is imperative to reexamine incarceration and policing policies, especially in terms of the racial disparities generated and the social harm caused. The assault weapons ban, which lasted only ten years, and its impact on mass shootings, remains a complex topic of debate due to the lack of a clear and uniform definition of “assault weapons” and “mass shooting”.

Joe Biden has stated that the law helped reduce mass murders, a point supported by new research suggesting that restrictions on high-capacity magazines had a significant effect in reducing deaths while the law was in force.