Justice Department unveils initiatives targeting gun crime, ghost guns

Attorney General Merrick Garland
Associated Press

The Biden administration on Thursday announced a slew of measures aimed at cutting down on gun violence, including a new Justice Department effort specifically cracking down on the use of ghost guns.

The DOJ is launching a National Ghost Gun Enforcement Initiative ahead of President Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland’s travel to New York City to discuss gun violence and anti-crime efforts.

The department’s latest initiative on ghost guns, which are privately made and difficult to track, will prioritize bringing federal charges against individuals who use those weapons. DOJ plans to train prosecutors on issues specifically related to ghost guns in a bid to better enforce laws against the weapons, which have grown in popularity.

Local law enforcement reported 1,750 suspected ghost guns in 2016, and that number had grown to 8,712 by 2020, according to DOJ statistics.

Eliminating the use of ghost guns has been a priority for DOJ and some lawmakers. The department published a rule last year seeking to curb the prevalence of those weapons.

The ghost gun initiative is one of several measures the administration announced as it seeks to emphasize actions targeting community violence. 

Garland is directing U.S. attorneys to prioritize federal prosecutions of those who illegally sell or transfer firearms that are used in violent crimes, and the department is announcing a new initiative seeking to curb drug-related violence and overdose deaths by partnering with local law enforcement.

White House officials also noted Biden’s proposed budget calls for an increase in funding for local law enforcement that would boost community policing. He is expected to urge Congress to pass a government funding bill with that money during his trip to New York on Thursday.

The efforts laid out on Thursday build on the ones Biden announced last June, when he detailed plans to cut down on crime, and on gun-related incidents in particular. The strategy included support for local law enforcement, the creation of DOJ task forces to address illegal firearm sales and expanding opportunities for employment and programming for at-risk communities.

Biden and Garland will travel to New York City on Thursday, where they will meet with Mayor Eric Adams (D) and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D). The visit comes a day after a funeral for the second of two city police officers who were gunned down last month, the latest in a string of violent crimes committed in the city in recent weeks.

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

Tags Department of Justice ghost guns gun violence Joe Biden Kathy Hochul Merrick Garland New York City
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