The Biden administration is expanding a crackdown on untraceable guns and firearms trafficking along the East Coast “iron pipeline” and elsewhere as police departments fight surging gun violence that’s left a trail of bloodshed this year. President Biden announced the effort during a visit Thursday to New York City, where he also is showcasing his plan to work with state and local law enforcement to get guns and repeat shooters off the streets. Some of the initiatives are similar to what has been announced in the past. Biden also will stop at a school to meet with violence intervention leaders, the Associated Press reports.
The visit comes as illegal guns flood the streets and gun violence claims scores of lives, including those of police officers. Biden is trying to dispel criticism from the right that he hasn’t been tough enough on crime.
His his modest announcements — expanding on initiatives already underway and offering suggestions for localities on how to spend federal dollars — demonstrate the limits to what he can do when there is no appetite in Congress to pass gun legislation. The strongest effort in recent years failed, even after 20 children and six adults were killed in the 2012 Newtown, Ct., school shooting.
Biden is trying to navigate the politics of the moment: finding ways to combat crime while also pushing for greater accountability after killings of Black people by police.
This unfolds against the backdrop of polls showing that Americans are increasingly concerned about crime and that Republicans have an advantage over Democrats as the party that would do a better job dealing with it. The White House is pushing back against GOP efforts to paint Biden as soft.
Guns are at the center of the debate as homicides spiked nationally in 2020. At least seven 16-year-olds were killed in shootings last year in New York alone. And 32 officers have been shot on the job in 2022, five fatally. Two died in New York in two weeks and two campus officers were killed in Virginia on Tuesday.
Americans purchased a record number of firearms in 2020. Law enforcement officers recovered historically high numbers of firearms last year and are coming across more firearms stripped of serial numbers, making them impossible to trace.
The Justice Department is working to stop the movement of guns north along the Interstate 95 corridor from Southern states with lax gun laws. Federal prosecutors will prioritize cases of those who sell or transfer guns used in violent crime and, if Biden’s budget is enacted, get specific agents dedicated to the effort.
In May, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will host police executives from across the nation to collaborate on solutions to gun violence. The agency has been without a permanent leader since 2013, and Biden’s first nominee was rejected by Republicans and some moderate Democrats.