- President Biden and Attorney General Garland announced initiatives aimed at stemming gun violence.
- The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing calls for policing reform after the death of George Floyd have increased the stakes for action.
- Biden has long pushed for gun control legislation, including a ban on assault weapons.
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President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday laid out a plan to curtail gun violence across the country, which includes several measures focused on stemming the stream of firearms used in crimes.
The president has long sought gun control measures pushed by most Democratic lawmakers, including an assault weapons ban and universal background checks for gun purchases, which he mentioned during his speech.
“Crime historically rises during the summer, and as we emerge from this pandemic, with the country opening back up again, the traditional summer spike may be more pronounced than it usually would be,” he said. “I’ve been at this a long time, and there are things we know that reduce gun violence and violent crime, and things we don’t know.”
He added: “Background checks for purchasing a firearm are important … the ban on assault weapons at high-capacity magazines. No one needs to have a weapon that can fire up to 100 rounds, unless you think the deer are wearing kevlar vests or something.”
A key focus of the administration will be the pursuit of gun sellers who violate existing law, with Biden stating that the Department of Justice would have a “zero tolerance” approach to such incidents.
“We are announcing a major crackdown the stem of flow of guns used to commit violent crimes,” he said.”It is zero tolerance for those who willfully violate key existing laws and regulations.”
He added: “If you willfully sell a gun to someone who is prohibited from possessing it, if you willfully fail to run a background check, if you willfully falsify a record, if you willfully fail to cooperate with the tracing requests or inspections, my message to you is this … ‘We’ll find you and we’ll seek your license to sell guns.'”
In his speech, Biden also stressed that state and local officials in areas that are experiencing increases in crime can utilize $350 billion in funding from the $1.9 COVID-19 relief package known as the American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law in March.
Yesterday, the Department of Justice announced new strike forces aimed at tackling gun trafficking in five key metropolitan regions – New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay area, and Washington, DC.
Biden’s actions come as violent crime has become an issue as the country continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, which created sustained economic hardship for millions of Americans.
After the May 2020 murder of George Floyd while in custody of the Minneapolis police, the calls for justice were immediate, especially among Black Americans.
While Biden, who has a long legislative record on criminal justice issues as a senator and as vice president, has so far risen above becoming an effective foil for Republicans, increases in violent crime have become an issue in many cities.
According to criminologists, homicide rates in large US cities rose by more than 30 percent on average last year, and rates were up by another 24 percent for the beginning of the year, The New York Times reported.
Biden has vehemently opposed the “defunding” of police departments and has backed bipartisan talks aimed at crafting police reform legislation.
On Wednesday, Biden and Garland also led an anti-violence meeting at the White House with Democratic Mayors Brandon Scott of Baltimore and Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County, along with GOP Mayor Steve Allender of Rapid City, S.D., New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, Baton Rouge, La., police chief Murphy Paul, and several community activists.