DOJ announces strike force to tackle gun trafficking in DC and beyond

The Department of Justice said Tuesday it is launching “strike forces” in D.C. and other large cities to deal with violent crime by cracking down on gun trafficking.

The teams are slated to be deployed within the next 30 days.

In addition to D.C., key corridors being targeted are those that channel guns into New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Designated U.S. attorneys will lead the teams, and will coordinate with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and with state and local law enforcement partners in places where firearms originate and where they are used to commit crimes, according to a news release.

“Working with our local partners to tackle violent crime is one of the Justice Department’s most important responsibilities,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

“Today, the department is taking another concrete step to address violent crime and illegal firearms trafficking, Garland added. “Our firearms trafficking strike forces will investigate and disrupt the networks that channel crime guns into our communities with tragic consequences. This effort reflects our shared commitment to keep communities safe.”

The strike forces are part of a plan being laid out by President Joe Biden to stem a rising national tide of violent crime.

In a speech on Wednesday, Biden is set to unveil a series of executive orders aimed at reducing violence, and he will renew his calls for Congress to pass gun legislation, aides said. Ahead of the speech, the Justice Department announced new strike forces aimed at tackling gun trafficking in five cities.

The White House also planned to convene a meeting Wednesday of a bipartisan group of mayors, members of the law enforcement community, experts and community activists. White House staff members have also been in touch with legislators and congressional staff.

In April, Biden announced a half-dozen executive actions on gun control, including cracking down on “ghost guns,” homemade firearms that lack serial numbers used to trace them and that are often purchased without a background check.

There is also new federal funding from the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package directed toward municipal governments, allowing them to keep more police officers on the street. Aides said Biden would also urge a swift confirmation of his choice to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said Tuesday that she has seen double-digit increases in murder and violent crime nationwide.

“It is staggering. It is sobering,” she said at a violent-crime forum held by the Washington-based Police Executive Research Forum. “And it’s something that DOJ is committed to do all we can to reverse what are profoundly troubling trends.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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