The Justice Department is launching an initiative to reduce gun violence by cracking down on gun trafficking, the agency announced Thursday. The DOJ will send gun trafficking strike forces to five urban areas — Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, the San Francisco Bay area and Sacramento Region as well as Washington, DC — where they will focus on “disrupting illegal firearms trafficking networks,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said on CNN.
“We obviously always want to go after the individual who is pulling the trigger that’s costing lives in our communities, but we also need to go after the networks, the very illegal trafficking networks that are putting those guns in the hands of those criminals in the first place,” Monaco said.
The prosecutors on the strike forces will collaborate with the ATF as well as state and local officials to help investigate and prosecute violent gun crimes and disrupt gun trafficking. Although gun trafficking is not illegal on its own, federal prosecutors often use other laws to convict traffickers, like prosecuting a trafficker for lying on a form to purchase a firearm. According to Reuters, one official said on a call with reporters that the strategy will establish “cross-jurisdictional coordination” and intelligence sharing among law enforcement officials.
“All too often, guns found at crime scenes come from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. We are redoubling our efforts as [the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)] works with law enforcement to track the movement of illegal firearms used in violent crimes,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “These strike forces enable sustained coordination across multiple jurisdictions to help disrupt the worst gun trafficking corridors.”
The DOJ created this initiative as a response to reported increases in crime in some American cities. Still, even though crime has increased in some cities compared to last year, possibly influenced by the pandemic and economic fallout, the U.S. is still seeing far fewer violent crimes than five or ten years ago.
The Biden administration has taken other steps to address gun crimes, including closing a “ghost gun” loophole and ordering the DOJ to create a new annual report on gun trafficking and asking the department to publish model “red flag” legislation for states, which lets family or law enforcement submit a court order to bar dangerous individuals from accessing firearms.
Garland will travel to Chicago with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Thursday to discuss the new initiatives. “When it comes to the gun violence epidemic, we have a choice: give up or stand up. Attorney General Garland and I are committed to assisting the City of Chicago by stemming the flood of illegal firearms into our neighborhoods,” Durbin said.