Justice News

Attorney General Garland’s Full Remarks on Gun Violence Prevention at the White House Rose Garden
Washington, DC
United States
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Thursday, April 8, 2021

Thank you, Mr. President and Madam Vice President.

We stand here today, not at a moment of tragedy, but in the midst of an enduring tragedy. So far this year, guns have taken the lives of an estimated 11,000 of our neighbors, friends and fellow Americans. As the President explained, gun deaths in our country are occurring at a staggering pace, on the order of about a hundred Americans killed every day with hundreds more wounded. I am under no illusions about how hard it is to solve the problem of gun violence and I know that the Department of Justice alone cannot solve the problem. It is a problem that must all work on together in the collective effort to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and save lives. But there is work for the Department to do, and we intend to do it.

Today, the Department of Justice is announcing several steps that we will take to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and reduce the risk of gun violence. First, we will ensure that we understand and measure the problem of criminal gun trafficking in a data driven way. Over 20 years ago, ATF undertook a gun trafficking study. It then issued a report that provided information necessary to better understand and to combat criminal trafficking networks. No such study has been conducted since that time.

Accordingly, I have directed ATF to begin work on an updated study of criminal gun trafficking, one that will take into account the fact that modern guns are not simply cast or forged anymore, but can also be made of plastic, printed on a 3D printer or sold in self-assembly kits. We will evaluate how some of our best tools, including the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network and the National Tracing Center are keeping up with the times. And we will analyze our criminal cases and investigations to determine what they can show us about modern gun trafficking patterns.

We expect that the lessons from this study will help agents, prosecutors and policymakers tackle modern criminal gun trafficking enterprises. Second, we’ll close a regulatory loophole that has contributed to the proliferation of the so-called ghost guns. Federal law requires that manufacturers mark all firearms with serial numbers so they can be traced if they are used in crimes.

It also requires licensed firearms dealers to run background checks to ensure the individuals who are barred by law from purchasing firearms cannot do so. The emergence of ghost guns threatens both of these important law enforcement objectives. Currently individuals can buy kits that contain all or almost all of the parts they need to assemble a gun. They can put a working weapon together in as little as 30 minutes.

The kits are aptly called buy, build, shoot kits. Yet because of a gap in the ATF regulations, these kits may not be considered firearms. As a result, they’re being made and sold without serial numbers and sold without background checks. Within 30 days, ATF will issue a proposed rule to plug that gap and to enable law enforcement to trace crime guns, and to keep guns from being sold to those who cannot lawfully possessed them.

Third, we will make clear that statutory restrictions on short-barreled rifles apply when certain stabilizing braces are added to high-powered pistols. Federal law requires the taxation and registration of all short-barreled rifles. It does so because these weapons are powerful yet easily concealable.

Currently however, some manufacturers market and some individuals purchase certain kinds of stabilizing braces that when attached to a pistol effectively convert it into a short-barreled rifle, a weapon that is in the words of the statute, “intended to be fired from the shoulder.” Such braces make high powered pistols more stable and accurate while still concealable.

Within 60 days, ATF will issue a proposed rule that will make clear that when a device marketed as a stabilizing device effectively turns a pistol into a short-barreled rifle, it is subject to the requirements of the statute. Fourth, we will publish model red flag legislation for states. Red flag laws, as the President has explained, allow family members or law enforcement to petition for court orders that temporarily bar people in crisis from accessing firearms if they present a danger to themselves or to others.

19 states and the District of Columbia have already made this important step. Within 60 days, the Justice Department will publish model legislation that will make it easier for states that want to craft laws permitting such emergency risk orders to do so. Fifth, we will empower our communities to combat and prevent gun violence. We all recognize that although law enforcement plays an important role, gun violence is not a problem that law enforcement alone can solve.

Communities are an essential partner, an asset and a source of resources and ideas. Those who are closest to the problem are a critical part of solving the problem. To that end, the Justice Department will make available over $1 billion in funding through over a dozen grant programs that can be used to support evidence-based intervention strategies for reducing gun violence. Such strategies include, but are not limited to street outreach, violence, interrupters, and hospital-based violence intervention services.

I have directed all of our grant making components to make community violence intervention and prevention a priority. Finally, none of these measures or any of the other critical law enforcement work the Department does with respect to illegal guns can be effectively carried out without strong leadership. That is why the President has nominated David Chipman to be the next ATF Director.

Mr. Chipman has come up through the ranks, spending 25 years in the trenches fighting illegal gun trafficking and criminal enterprises. His extensive experience as an ATF agent will prove invaluable and I look forward to working with him. Looking out at many of you is not only a reminder of the tragic toll that gun violence takes on our communities, but also of the resilience and determination that it will take to make our communities safer. The Department of Justice shares your commitment and that of the President and of the Vice President to stopping the plague of gun violence and saving the lives of those we love. Thank you.

Updated April 9, 2021