Biden to promote anti-gun violence measures in NYC trip

Associated Press/Andrew Harnik

President Biden will travel to New York City on Thursday to highlight his administration’s efforts to curb gun violence and present a united front with New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) following a series of violent crimes in the Big Apple.

Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland will make the trip one day after the funeral for the second of two city police officers who were fatally shot last month while responding to a 911 call.

The police killings are part of an overall uptick in gun violence since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and administration officials are hoping to partner with Adams and other local officials to stem the tide of shootings.

The president will meet with Adams and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) at New York City Police Department headquarters “to discuss the work that federal, state, and local law enforcement officials are doing to quickly take guns and repeat shooters off of our streets,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

The group will then visit with community leaders in Queens to discuss efforts to slow gun violence in the borough.

It will be Biden’s first visit to New York City since Adams was sworn in as mayor at the beginning of the year. A former police officer, Adams centered his campaign on improving public safety, and he has repeatedly spoken with optimism about his ability to work with Biden.

Adams last month unveiled a proposal to curb gun violence that included reintroducing an anti-gun police unit that would patrol neighborhoods without wearing uniforms. He also urged the court system to take gun offenses more seriously.

Thursday’s visit marks the latest show of support for law enforcement from Biden, with the White House consistently pushing back on conservative accusations that the president is weak on crime or favors the “defund the police” movement that picked up steam with some progressives last year.

“If those facts are uncomfortable, I’m sorry for people who feel they need to be critical, but the president has been a longtime advocate of addressing crime. He’s never been for defunding the police,” Psaki said earlier in the week. 

Biden and Garland are expected to speak on Thursday and are likely to emphasize investments the administration has already made in law enforcement and community violence prevention programs.

Democrats last year passed the American Rescue Plan, which contained funding for local police departments to hire more officers and focus on community policing.

The Justice Department last year also deployed “firearms trafficking strike forces” to Chicago, New York City and other areas with high volumes of gun violence. The department reported last month that the strike forces have resulted in the confiscation of thousands of guns.

The administration has also pushed executive action to curb the use of so-called ghost guns, which are difficult to trace and can be assembled at home by the user. 

But a recent wave of high-profile violent crimes has renewed attention on the issue of crime, and gun violence in particular. While overall crime remained mostly steady from 2020 to 2021, according to experts, there has been a continuing increase in gun related crimes since the start of the pandemic.

The Biden administration is still facing challenges implementing its agenda on gun violence. The White House withdrew Biden’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), David Chipman, in the face of concerns from Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) and Republicans, and no new nominee has been put forward.

Advocacy groups pushing the administration for stricter gun laws have pressed the federal government to take action on tougher background checks.

Talks broke down last year in the Senate after mass shootings in Colorado, Georgia and Indiana spurred renewed debate. It’s unlikely there will be fresh traction on the issue in a narrowly divided Senate during a midterm year.

“This is an epidemic of our own making. And we have the power to end it. Enough prioritizing the interests of the gun industry over those of the American people. Enough excuses and inaction,” said Peter Ambler, executive director of the gun control group Giffords.

“We are depending on President Biden to pass safer gun laws and enact effective gun violence prevention policies. We need a vote on universal background checks, continued investment in community violence intervention programs and reform at ATF,” Ambler said.

Tags Angus King Jen Psaki Joe Biden Kathy Hochul Merrick Garland New York City
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