CHICAGO – As part of the Biden administration’s approach to combating escalating gun violence in the US, the Justice Department on Thursday deployed five new arms trafficking “strike forces” to combat the illegal flow of firearms across state lines.
Attorney General Merrick Garland spoke to U.S. attorneys and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Thursday morning at ATF headquarters in Washington before traveling to Chicago to discuss the new initiative with local leaders.
Speaking to a church in Chicago’s North Lawndale district – where two mass shootings were witnessed the day before – the Windy City native described gun crime as an ongoing tragedy.
“I feel it especially in my hometown,” Garland told reporters.
As part of the new strike forces announced last month, authorities will coordinate with the ATF and cities and states to crack down on arms trade corridors that have diverted arms to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington, DC to the Ministry of Justice.
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Garland said the forces differ from previous gun crime efforts as the Justice Department and its partners will focus on drug trafficking corridors in all jurisdictions, from the cities and regions that source illegally to criminals in the largest cities of the country.
For example, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago will look for illegal weapons in the city and on routes to Chicago from southern Illinois, east Indiana and Wisconsin, Garland said.
“We’re sending a message to arms dealers: we’ll find you wherever you are,” said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot after meeting Garland on Thursday.
Chicago Police Commissioner David Brown previously announced that the department had deployed 50 officers to participate in arms smuggling. When asked by reporters whether the city’s emergency services are bringing additional resources, Lightfoot said, “That’s not the point.”
“It is a focused coordination and cooperation across national borders. That will be a game changer. I am confident that other resources will come, ”she said.
Garland said the forces are building on previous gun violence reduction efforts, including the Safe Neighborhoods Project, which was launched during the Trump administration. “We learn from the past,” he said.
Garland also met with representatives from READI Chicago, a violence reduction program. He said that if the strike initiative is to work, law enforcement agencies need community organizations to help stop gun violence and that these organizations need to trust law enforcement.
“We’re here today because the other half of this project is community relationships. We cannot hope to solve this problem without both, ”he said, referring to both community intervention and law enforcement.
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Earlier Thursday, Garland and Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco visited ATF’s Washington headquarters to meet with office managers, investigators, and U.S. attorneys from the Eastern District of California, Northern District of California, Eastern District of New York, and Northern District of Illinois and the District of Columbia.
“We all know it’s our job to go after those who pull the trigger,” said Monaco. She added, “But of course our job is also to track the sources of these weapons, the corridors they travel in and the networks that deliver these weapons to the places where they commit the most violent crimes and that is what this series of strike troops is about. “
President Joe Biden referred to the strike forces in a White House speech last month advocating a “zero tolerance policy” for rogue arms dealers and a new focus for the Justice Department to stop the illegal sale of firearms.
There is no federal law on the arms trade, so federal agents often have to rely on other laws, such as lying on a gun purchase form to prosecute arms trade cases or stop straw buyers, people who buy guns legally in order to then to make it available to others who can. t legal they have. Officials hope the new plan will make federal prosecutors in some utility towns more likely to bring charges in these cases.
While the strike forces focus on illegal arms sales, Garland said the Justice Department is also backing the Biden government’s overall efforts for more arms regulation by proposing new laws that would allow the government to prosecute so-called ghost weapons – privately made firearms – Kits that do not have serial numbers.
“We heard quite a bit this morning about the amount of ghost weapon sales which are turning out to be a pretty significant part of the weapons used in crime,” Garland said.
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The launch comes on Thursday as some U.S. cities have seen a surge in killings and shootings this year. According to the police, the shootings in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco and the homicides in Washington, among others, increased slightly compared to the same period last year.
In Chicago, shootouts were up 9% over the same period last year. Chicago has seen more than 2,100 shootings so far this year – an event in which one person becomes the victim of a crime – and more than 380 people have been fatally shot, according to the city.
There were three shootings in the city on Wednesday in which four or more people were shot or killed without the shooter – what the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, which tracks incidents of gun violence, defines a mass shooting.
Five men were shot dead on the west side of the city on Wednesday, including a 14-year-old boy who was fatally shot in the head, according to police. Minutes later, several blocks away, five people – including teenagers aged 14, 15, and 17 – were wounded.
Then, shortly before midnight, eight people who were traveling on a party bus on the north side of the city were injured in a drive-by shootout, according to police.
Brown urged parishioners to provide information about the shootings at a press conference Thursday. Many of the people targeted in the shootings did not cooperate with law enforcement, Brown said.
“We want to protect our babies. You deserve a right to life, ”Pastor James Brooks of Harmony Community Church in North Lawndale, where two of the shootings took place, told the press conference. “We need the community to help us. We need everyone. It’s our responsibility to come out and say something.”
Meanwhile, after years of protests against the wrongdoing of officials, Chicago leaders approved a new level of civilian police oversight on Wednesday – a move officials believe is key to restoring community confidence in law enforcement.
“Reforms are good for the police,” Brown said Thursday. “It has the potential to build trust with communities.”
Contributor: Associated Press