Thursday, June 24, 2021

President Biden to implement measures to crack down on gun violence

 President Biden will announce measures to crack down on gun stores that don’t follow federal rules, step up programs for recently released convicts and provide more support for police departments across the country as the administration grapples with spikes in homicides and other violent crimes across major cities, reported The Washington Post.

Though overall crime was down last year, according to FBI data, the murder rate rose about 25 percent and violent crime about 3 percent.

“That’s impacting people’s lives, people’s communities, people’s families, people’s neighbors,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in Tuesday’s news briefing, which was dominated by questions about crime. “Of course, they want to hear more and [Biden] wants to share more with the American public about what he’s going to do.”

Crime has become a dominant issue in a slew of local campaigns, most notably the New York mayoral race, where a former police officer with a tough-on-crime posture was seen as the front-runner heading into Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

The Biden White House sees a political advantage in focusing on gun control as a way to stem the violence. The issue polls well among Democrats and independents, as opposed to stiffening sentences or backing aggressive policing tactics, policies favored by the right.

Democrats are deeply internally divided over how to respond to the violence as it pertains to empowering police. Many in the party’s establishment political wing believe positions such as “defunding the police” hurt them in the 2020 election, while the left flank sees the crime wave as a potential obstacle to changing police practices. But they are unified in seeing tougher gun enforcement as a potential solution.

“If you look at a number of cities across the country, it is actually driven by gun violence,” Psaki said, citing increases in shootings and gun crimes in St. Louis and New York. “And that will be a central part of what [the president] will talk about when he delivers his remarks.”

Biden will direct the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to seek to revoke licenses from gun sellers the first time they are caught willfully selling a weapon to a person who is not permitted to have one, neglecting to run a required background check or ignoring a federal request to provide trace information about a weapon used in a crime. The policy attacks a source of crime guns, which in some instances can be traced to sloppy or irresponsible dealers, experts say.

The president also wants to reduce recidivism by opening opportunities to those leaving prison, including hiring more of them in federal jobs and encouraging business to do so. Biden also wants to offer additional federal housing vouchers for them, according to administration officials.

And Biden will allow $350 billion in federal stimulus funds to be used to pay to fund police departments in areas that have seen an increase in crime, administration officials said.

Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland are slated to meet with a handful of mayors and local officials and advocates Wednesday afternoon to discuss the administration’s strategy.

Psaki said that Biden’s Wednesday afternoon remarks after that meeting will “build on a number of the announcements” the president has already made.

She noted that he wants to “lay out a comprehensive strategy to address violent crime and gun violence” now, as the country moves into the summer months. Crime tends to increase in warmer weather, and experts say the lifting of pandemic restrictions could also factor into crime spikes in some areas.

Biden previously issued some directives aimed at gun control. In April, he directed the Justice Department to draft new restrictions on “ghost guns” — kits that allow buyers to assemble firearms without a serial number.

In May, the Justice Department released a draft of the rule, which would require retailers to run background checks before selling kits that allow someone to readily make a gun at home, and it would force manufacturers to include a serial number on a firearm’s “frame or receiver” — the primary structural components of a gun — in easy-to-build kits. Serial numbers help ATF trace guns used in crimes.

He also instructed the Justice Department to create a template that states can use to enact red-flag laws, which allow judges to seize firearms from people who are deemed a threat to themselves or others. And he ordered a repeat of a landmark 2000 gun-trafficking study that was instrumental in helping police determine the source of guns used in crimes.

Biden announced David Chipman as his pick to run ATF. The former ATF agent is now a senior adviser to a gun-control group founded by former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was severely wounded in a mass shooting in 2011. He has not yet been confirmed.

Biden also plans to highlight how the $1.9 trillion stimulus package he signed into law has included funds used for police departments — a message the White House hopes will blunt criticism from Republicans who have tried to paint all Democrats as supporting the “defund the police” movement.

“The president has never supported defunding the police,” Psaki said.

She noted Biden’s longtime support for community policing. “He also believes that we need to ensure that state and local governments keep cops on the beat, that we’re supporting community policing,” Psaki said.

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