Justice Department Launches Firearms Trafficking Strike Forces to Address Violent Crime, Crack Down on Sources of Crime Guns
The U.S. Department of Justice today launched five cross-jurisdictional strike forces to help reduce gun violence by disrupting illegal firearms trafficking in key regions across the country. Leveraging existing resources, the regional strike forces will better ensure sustained and focused coordination across jurisdictions and help stem the supply of illegally trafficked firearms from source cities, through other communities, and into five key market regions: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area/Sacramento Region and Washington, D.C.
Each strike force region will be led by designated United States Attorneys, who will collaborate with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and with state and local law enforcement partners within their own jurisdiction (where firearms are used in crimes) as well as law enforcement partners in areas where illegally trafficked guns originate. These officials will use the latest data, evidence, and intelligence from crime scenes to identify patterns, leads, and potential suspects in violent gun crimes.
“All too often, guns found at crime scenes come from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. We are redoubling our efforts as ATF works with law enforcement to track the movement of illegal firearms used in violent crimes. These strike forces enable sustained coordination across multiple jurisdictions to help disrupt the worst gun trafficking corridors,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The Department of Justice will use all of its tools – enforcement, prevention, intervention, and investment – to help ensure the safety of our communities – the department’s highest priority.”
The strike forces represent one important, concrete step in implementing the Department’s Comprehensive Violent Crime Reduction Strategy, which was announced on May 26, 2021. The comprehensive strategy supports local communities in preventing, investigating, and prosecuting gun violence and other violent crime—and requires U.S. Attorneys’ offices to work with federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement, as well as the communities they serve, to address the most significant drivers of violence in their districts. In guidance to federal agents and prosecutors as part of that comprehensive strategy, the Deputy Attorney General made clear that firearms traffickers providing weapons to violent offenders are an enforcement priority across the country.
Department of Justice Efforts to Address Violent Crime
Since April 2021, the Department has taken the following steps to reduce and prevent violent crime, especially the gun crime that is often at the core of the problem:
- April 8, 2021 – Attorney General Garland, alongside President Biden, announced four concrete steps for addressing gun violence: ATF would propose a new rule within 30 days to help curb the proliferation of so-called ghost guns, ATF would propose a new rule within 60 days on stabilizing braces used to convert pistols into short-barreled rifles, the Department would publish model state extreme risk protection order legislation within 60 days; and ATF would begin preparing a thorough and detailed new public study of firearms trafficking for the first time in 20 years.
- In April 2021, the Office of Justice Programs also made clear when existing grant funds could be used to support Community Violence Intervention (CVI) programs.
- On May 7, 2021, meeting the Attorney General’s announced timeline, ATF issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to update outdated firearms definitions and to help address the proliferation of ghost guns.
- May 26, 2021, the Attorney General announced the Department’s comprehensive strategy to reduce violent crime, including an overall Department Violent Crime Reduction Strategy, the strengthening of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), and a directive to the U.S. Attorneys to work with their local partners in addressing the increase in violence that typically occurs over the summer (with specific support from DOJ law enforcement agencies).
- On June 7, meeting the Attorney General’s announced timeline, ATF issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to clarify that the restrictions imposed by the National Firearms Act apply when stabilizing braces are used to convert pistols into short-barreled rifles.
- On June 8, meeting the Attorney General’s announced timeline, the Department published model state extreme risk protection order legislation.
- On June 22, 2021, the Attorney General announced that the Department would be forming five Firearms Trafficking Strike Forces within 30 days.
- On, June 23, 2021, the Attorney General, alongside President Biden, announced steps that ATF would take to hold rogue gun dealers accountable for their actions. They include applying a “no tolerance” policy for federal firearms licensers (FFLs) that willfully commit violations that endanger public safety; designating points of contact for state and local government officials to report concerns about rogue FFLs; formalizing the use of public safety factors for inspection prioritization; sharing inspection information with states that regulate firearms dealers themselves; resuming the practice of notifying revoked dealers on how to dispose of their inventory and the potential criminal consequences of continuing to engage in the business; increasing ATF’s resources for inspections (see, FY 2022 Budget request); and publicly posting disaggregated inspection information to ATF’s website.