CHICAGO – As part of the Biden administration’s approach to tackling rising gun violence in the United States, Attorney General Merrick Garland met with U.S. lawyers on Thursday to discuss plans to target the illegal flow of ‘guns across state borders through the establishment of five new “arms trafficking strikes forces.”
Authorities will coordinate with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and cities and states to crack down on arms trafficking corridors that have diverted weapons to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Bay Area of San Francisco and Washington, DC, the Justice Department announced last month.
The DOJ added that “the strike forces will share information and otherwise collaborate between districts” to “focus enforcement on all trafficking networks.”
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Garland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco visited ATF Washington headquarters early Thursday to meet with office managers and investigators ahead of a scheduled visit to Chicago.
U.S. attorneys from the Eastern District of California, the Northern District of California, the Eastern District of New York, the Northern District of Illinois and the District of Columbia joined the meeting via video.
“We all know our job is to prosecute those who pull the trigger,” Monaco said. She added: “But our job is also, of course, to find the sources of these weapons, the corridors in which they circulate and the networks which feed these weapons to the places where they commit the most violent crimes, and that is what is this series of efforts of the strike force. “
President Joe Biden referred to strike forces in a White House speech last month touting a “zero tolerance policy” for gun traffickers and a new direction from the Justice Department to try to put end to the illegal sale of firearms.
There is no federal gun trafficking law, so federal agents often have to rely on other laws, such as lying on a gun purchase form, to prosecute. gun trafficking business or arresting straw buyers, people who buy guns legally and then supply them to others who can’t legally get them.
Officials hope the new plan will mean that federal prosecutors in some of the supply towns will be more likely to lay charges in these cases.
The Attorney General’s trip to Chicago comes a day after the city saw three shootings in which four or more people were shot or killed, not counting the gunman – what the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, which tracks incidents of gun violence, defines as mass shootings.
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Five men were shot dead on the city’s West Side on Wednesday, including a 14-year-old boy who was fatally shot in the head, police said. Minutes later, a few blocks away, five people – including teenagers aged 14, 15 and 17 – were injured. Then, just before midnight, eight people who were traveling in a party bus on the north side of town were injured in a drive-by shooting, police said.
Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown called on community members to provide information on the shootings at a press conference Thursday. Many people targeted in the shootings were not cooperating with law enforcement, Brown said.
Chicago has seen more than 2,100 gunshot victimizations – an event when someone is the victim of a crime – so far this year, and more than 380 people have been shot dead, according to city data. Filming is up 9% compared to the same period last year.
“We want to keep our babies safe. They deserve the right to live,” Pastor James Brooks of Harmony Community Church in North Lawndale, where two of the shootings took place, said Thursday at the press conference. “We need the community to help us. We need everyone. It is our responsibility to come out and say something.”
Chicago has dedicated 50 officers to get involved in arms trafficking efforts, Brown said.
Meanwhile, Chicago leaders on Wednesday approved a new layer of civilian police oversight after years of protests against officer misconduct – a move officials say is key to restoring community confidence in the app laws.
“Reform is good for the police,” Brown said Thursday. “It has the potential to build trust with communities.”
Contribution: Associated Press