Rep. Cleaver Co-Introduces Transformative Legislation to Break the Cycle of Community Violence

Jun 25, 2021
Press Release

(Washington, D.C.) – Yesterday, U.S. Representative Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO) joined Reps. Steven Horsford (D-NV), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), James E. Clyburn (D-SC), Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Robin Kelly (D-IL), Lucy McBath (D-GA), and others, along with Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), to reintroduce landmark legislation to reduce violence in American cities and communities. H.R. 4118, the Break the Cycle of Violence Act, would provide federal grants to communities for evidence-based community violence intervention and prevention programs designed to interrupt cycles of violence that have devastated communities across the nation.

Research has shown that a combination of community-oriented intervention programs and common sense violence prevention policies can cut gun violence rates in urban cities in half in as little as two years. In our nation’s urban centers, homicide rates are nearly 20 times the national average, which has a disproportionate impact on communities of color. In fact, Black men and boys, who make up just 6 percent of the U.S. population, account for 63 percent of all homicide victims. This violence disproportionately impacts young people of color. From 2015 to 2019, Black children and teens were 14 times as likely to be shot to death as their White peers. Hispanic children and teens and Native American children and teens were both about 3 times as likely to be shot to death as their White peers. Over this period, 72 percent of children murdered before their 18th birthday were people of color, and 50 percent were Black.

While the human cost of gun violence is agonizing, the economic costs for communities and taxpayers is similarly staggering. Gun violence costs the United States $280 billion every year—with each American bearing $700 of this cost annually. A single gun homicide costs taxpayer $448,000 in medical and criminal justice expenses.

“The failure to make substantial investments in community-based violence prevention and intervention programs, in addition to the failure to pass gun safety legislation, has allowed the gun violence epidemic to traumatize communities in Kansas City for far too long,” said Congressman Cleaver. “With this landmark legislation, we are making an ambitious attempt to reverse the terrifying trends we have seen in recent years by providing the support needed to break the cycle of violence that only leads to further tragedy. I’m proud to join Representatives Horsford and Blunt Rochester, along with Senator Booker, to introduce this transformative legislation—and I will do everything possible to see it signed into law by President Biden.”

“Twenty-eight years ago today, my father was shot and killed in a senseless act of gun violence. In countless communities like mine, violence has robbed children of their parents and stripped young people of their futures,” said Congressman Horsford. “We need smart, bold solutions to stop violence and keep families safe. The Break the Cycle of Violence Act will make transformative investments in community-based violence prevention programs, bring much-needed resources back to our neighborhoods, and build the economic opportunities that our youth deserve.”

“The rise in violent crime we have seen across the country, and specifically the rise of gun-related crimes is extremely alarming and must be addressed. We also know that all too often, gun violence is a vicious cycle of shootings and retaliation that leave communities traumatized and robs our young people of opportunity,” said Congresswoman Blunt Rochester. “It is all of our obligation to break that cycle. That’s why, together with my colleagues Representative Horsford, and Senator Booker, today, we are proposing an historic investment in both community and hospital-based violence intervention strategies, as well as job resources and opportunities for violence-affected youth. This multi-sector approach to addressing violence also shifts the paradigm through which we view policy and recognizes that the violence in our communities is a public health epidemic. The Break the Cycle of Violence Act invests in the kind of wraparound services that can not only help address the symptoms of violence we see in our communities but also address the root causes of that violence. This historic legislation will not only help break the cycle of gun violence - it will help create opportunity for our young people and help our communities thrive.”

“Often when we talk about gun violence, the discussion focuses on deadly mass shootings, but in my community in Newark and urban cities across the country people are experiencing this on a daily basis,” said Senator Booker. “The gun violence epidemic that is ravaging our urban communities has been overlooked for too long, even as many communities have gun injury rates similar to warzones. It’s going to take bold, innovative, and smart ideas to tackle this challenge and keep our cities safe. This means investing federal resources in community-based violence intervention and prevention programs, which have been proven to reduce gun violence. It’s time we take action, confront this crisis, and implement solutions that work.”

Several studies have shown that the violence prevention and intervention programs the Break the Cycle of Violence Act would fund have been successful in reducing violence in their communities. Richmond, California invested millions of dollars in violence reduction programs and saw a 70 percent drop in gun homicides between 2007 and 2016. In Massachusetts, gun homicide rates fell by 35 percent from 2010 to 2015 when they implemented public health approaches with its Safe and Successful Youth Initiative, while national rates increased 14 percent within the same time period. In Oakland, California gun homicides and nonfatal shootings have fallen by 50 percent since 2012, as a result of a citywide violence reduction plan, known as Oakland Ceasefire.

Specifically, the Break the Cycle of Violence Act would:

  • Require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to award $5 billion in grants over eight years to community-based, nonprofit organizations and eligible units of local government to create and/or support:
    • Community outreach programs;
    • Hospital-based violence intervention programs (HVIP) that provide intensive counseling, peer support, case management, mediation, and social services to patients recovering from gunshot wounds and other violent injuries;
    • Group violence intervention strategies, which are a form of problem-oriented policing that provides targeted social services and support to individuals at highest risk for involvement in community violence, and a process for community members to voice a clear demand for the violence to stop; and
    • Violence interruption and crisis management initiatives.
  • Create an Office of Community Violence Intervention at the Department of Health and Human Services to implement the legislation;
  • Establish a Community Violence Intervention Advisory Committee to provide advice and assistance to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Community Violence Intervention to carry out the bill;
  • Create a National Community Violence Response Center to provide technical assistance to grantees in the implementation of coordinated community violence intervention and prevention programs funded through the grant program; and
  • Direct the Secretary of the Department of Labor to create $1.5 billion grant program for eligible organizations and units of local government to provide job training, education, apprenticeship, skilled trades training, or other paid or unpaid work experiences for youth in communities disproportionately impacted by violence.

Official text of the Break the Cycle of Violence Act is available here.


Emanuel Cleaver, II is the U.S. Representative for Missouri's Fifth Congressional District, which includes Kansas City, Independence, Lee's Summit, Raytown, Grandview, Sugar Creek, Blue Springs, Grain Valley, Oak Grove, North Kansas City, Gladstone, Claycomo, and all of Ray, Lafayette, and Saline Counties. He is a member of the exclusive House Financial Services Committee; Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development, and Insurance; member of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress; member of the Committee on Homeland Security; and a Senior Whip of the Democratic Caucus. A high-resolution photo of Congressman Cleaver is available here.