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Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Remarks at ATF’s Inaugural Gun Violence Survivors’ Summit


Washington, DC
United States

Remarks as Delivered

Thank you, Steve. I am grateful for that overly generously introduction. No disrespect intended, but next time I’d like that woman there to introduce me. She’s really something.

I am grateful for your leadership and for everything that your team did to put this Summit together. It is really quite extraordinary.

I also want to take this moment to recognize the extraordinary professionals of ATF who work tirelessly to protect our communities every day, often at great risk to themselves. Their mission is as urgent as it has ever been. And they do their work with great skill and under enormous pressure.

I just had the honor of meeting several of the survivors attending this event. They shared with me their stories, their grief, and their devotion to preventing other families from experiencing the profound loss that they have experienced.

We stand here today at ATF’s Faces of Gun Violence, a memorial to those who have lost their lives to this tragic epidemic.

Behind me, we see a 15-year-old boy from Washington, D.C., who helped his football team win a championship.

We see a mother and her three young daughters from Oregon, who spent their final evening together in excited anticipation of the eldest daughter’s first day of kindergarten.

We see a 17-year-old honors student from Michigan, who tutored his classmates and loved his three little brothers.

We see an beloved mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother from Buffalo, whose door and pantry were always open to family and friends.

We see a 9-year-old girl from Uvalde, whose family beamed with pride at her First Communion.

We see a loving husband and father, who served for over two decades as a police officer, and whose heroism, even after he was shot, saved the lives of countless other officers.

We see two FBI agents, who put their lives on the line to combat insidious crimes against vulnerable children and made the ultimate sacrifice.

We see their stories, the rich lives they led, and the people who loved them.

We see their beautiful photos.

And we see many of their loved ones here today.

But we do not see them here with us today.

Because they are victims of gun violence.

Because he was shot and killed in his neighborhood.

Because they were the victims of domestic violence.

Because he died of suicide during a mental health crisis.

Because she was targeted in a hate-fueled mass shooting.

Because she was killed in her fourth-grade classroom.

Because they made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting the public.

Each victim in this exhibit was someone’s world: their beloved child; their role model; their revered elder; their best friend; their hero; the love of their life.

On behalf of the Justice Department, I want to express my deepest condolences to all of you who are here today to honor a loved one.

I would also like to extend my gratitude.

Your presence here is a testament to your everlasting love.

But I know that my condolences and my gratitude are not enough.

I know there is nothing we can do to bring back the 118 people we honor today. Or the hundreds of thousands of victims of gun violence who have been stolen from their families and communities across the country.

And I know that the tragedy of gun violence in our country is so enduring and so enormous that it can often feel like there is nothing we can do.

But that could not be further from the truth.

In the effort to keep our country safe from gun violence, the Justice Department will never give in and never give up.

We know what is at stake.

So, we are doing everything we can to interrupt and disrupt the cycle of gun violence, from start to finish.

We are working to honor the victims and survivors of gun violence by pursuing justice on their behalf. And by holding the individual perpetrators of gun violence accountable for their crimes.

We are using our prosecutorial and technological tools to identify the repeat offenders and gangs who are principally responsible for community violence.

We are supporting our state and local law enforcement and community partners in their efforts to drive down violent crime.

We are cracking down on the criminal gun-trafficking pipelines that flood our communities with illegal guns. We are deploying strike forces to dismantle every link in illegal gun trafficking networks — from wherever illegal guns originate, to wherever they are used to commit violent crimes.

We are supporting evidence-based initiatives that intervene at the community level to disrupt gun violence before it occurs.

We are investing in programs that focus on addressing the deadly intersection between gun violence and domestic violence, by supporting specialized training for our law enforcement partners and enhanced support services for survivors.

And we are using our own authorities and supporting the efforts of law enforcement agencies across the country, to implement laws that keep firearms out of the hands of individuals who pose a threat to themselves and to others.

Just two weeks ago, we issued one of the most significant gun regulations in decades, to expand background checks and curb unlicensed firearms dealing.

That regulation closes the so-called gun-show loophole. It does not matter if guns are sold on the internet, at a gun show, or at a brick-and-mortar store. If someone sells a gun predominantly to earn a profit, they must be licensed, and they must conduct a background check to ensure that the buyer is not barred by law from having a gun.

This regulation is a historic step in the Justice Department’s fight against gun violence.

And it will save lives.

But we know there is so much work to do.

This evening, as we remember those we have lost to gun violence, the Justice Department promises that we will strive every single day to honor their lives with our work.

We promise will not rest until every family, every law enforcement agent, and every community is safe from gun violence.

We promise that we will never stop fighting to save the lives of those we love.

And as our dedicated ATF agents pass through this atrium every day, this memorial will stand as a powerful monument to those they are fighting for.

Thank you all for being here.

Updated April 23, 2024