Merrick Garland heads to Chicago to reaffirm Biden’s commitment to tackle the surge in gun violence by tracking down dealers with ‘strike forces’
- Attorney General launched strike forces to tackle guns in five cities
- Move aims to choke off supply of illegal firearms by prosecuting dealers and traffickers
- ‘All too often, guns found at crime scenes come from hundreds or even thousands of miles away,’ said Garland
- Teams will be launched in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area and Washington, D.C., and Chicago
Attorney General Merrick Garland returned to his home town of Chicago on Thursday to launch gun trafficking strike forces as part of a fresh effort to tackle surging violent crime.
The city has been badly hit by gun crime – police said just last weekend 11 people were shot dead and a further 45 were wounded – and the visit will be dismissed in some quarters as just another policy announcement.
But officials say the strike forces being set up in five cities are designed to get to the root of the country’s firearm problems by launching targeted prosecutions of traffickers and dealers that will have a long-term impact by stopping weapons reaching criminals.
The five are are New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area and Washington, D.C., as well as Chicago.
‘All too often, guns found at crime scenes come from hundreds or even thousands of miles away,’ said Garland ahead of the trip.
‘We are redoubling our efforts as ATF works with law enforcement to track the movement of illegal firearms used in violent crimes.
‘All too often, guns found at crime scenes come from hundreds or even thousands of miles away,’ said Attorney General Merrick Garlandas as he announced five strike forces to tackle the availability of illegal firearms
Police investigate a shooting in Lawndale on Chicago’s West Side on July 21. Officers said 11 people were killed by guns last weekend as homicides surge across the country
President Biden last month announced plan to crack down on firearms dealers but will also let states and cities use $350 billion in COVID relief to hire more cops amid surging violent crime
THE WHITE HOUSE SCRAMBLES TO TACKLE GUN CRIME: THE STEPS BIDEN IS TAKING
• Stem the flow of firearms used to commit violence, including by holding rogue firearms dealers accountable for violating federal laws;
• Support local law enforcement with federal tools and resources to help address summer violent crime;
• Invest in evidence-based community violence interventions;
• Expanding summer programming, employment opportunities, and other services and supports for teenagers and young adults; and
• Help formerly incarcerated individuals successfully reenter their communities, including tax incentives to hire released prisoners
‘These strike forces enable sustained coordination across multiple jurisdictions to help disrupt the worst gun trafficking corridors.’
Besides prioritizing gun crimes, the strike forces will embrace intelligence sharing and prosecutions across jurisdictions, Justice Department officials said.
Authorities have also embedded federal agents in homicide units of police departments across the U.S., have been deploying additional crime analysts and are conducting fugitive sweeps to arrest people who have outstanding state and federal warrants for violent crimes.
The move come amid a worrying surge in gun crime. Shootings rose dramatically in 2020 with early data suggesting that homicides increased by about 20 percent, which would make it the biggest year-on-year rise since records began.
Even so, activists in Chicago worry about the impact of the new strike forces.
The Rev. Marvin Hunter has held multiple news conferences to raise residents’ concerns that they will flood neighborhoods with more police.
Any solution that includes more police, they say, raises the prospect of more police brutality. .
But officials say the aim is to get guns off the streets and does not rely on sending officers into troubled areas.
There is no federal gun trafficking law, so federal agents often must rely on other statutes, like lying on a firearms purchase form, to prosecute gun trafficking cases or stop straw purchasers, people who buy weapons legally to then provide them to others who can’t legally have them.
Officials hope the new plan will mean federal prosecutors in some of the supply cities will be more likely to bring charges in those cases.
Biden set out some of the plans in an address last month.
He warned Americans to brace for a summer of violence as this year’s pandemic reopening would exaggerate the usual seasonal increase in attacks as he on Wednesday laid out plans to tackle the country’s ‘epidemic’ of violent crime.
But his proposals to focus on dealers rather than criminals and his mockery for gun advocates brought a rapid backlash from Republicans who accused him of bowing to his parties radical wing.
He promised ‘zero tolerance’ for dealers who break the rules but also mocked Americans who believe they need firearms to protect their rights from the government.
‘If you want to think you need to have weapons to take on the government, you need F-15s and maybe some nuclear weapons,’ he said.
Biden’s plan focuses on delivering money to cities that need more police and cracking down on those who sell firearms illegally.
‘These merchants of death are breaking the law for profit, he said.
‘If you willfully sell a gun to someone who’s prohibited, my message to you is this: We’ll find you and we’ll seek your license to sell guns. We’ll make sure you can’t sell death and mayhem on our streets.’