With cities across the country witnessing spikes in violent crime, the White House on Wednesday announced a new plan to tackle gun violence, building on President Biden's vow to make it his priority to curb America's gun violence epidemic.
Citing the uptick in violence since the coronavirus pandemic forced millions of Americans out of work and into their homes for extended periods, Biden on Wednesday announced a five-point proposal that includes:
- Cracking down on gun sellers who violate federal laws, with a new zero-tolerance policy.
- Giving additional support to local law enforcement to help with summer crime increases.
- Investing in community violence intervention programs.
- Expanding summer employment and services, particularly for teens and young adults.
- Helping formerly incarcerated individuals successfully reenter their communities.
Biden, who delivered remarks after a White House roundtable with local officials and his attorney general, said violent crime has spiked during the pandemic, and mentioned that violent crime typically jumps in the summer months.
The president also mentioned aspects of gun control that would need to go through Congress, like universal background checks and banning high-capacity magazines. He said his plan will "supercharge what works" while the White House continues to push Congress. He also called on Congress to confirm his ATF director.
Speaking to whom he described as "rogue" gun dealers, Biden said: "My message to you is this: 'We'll find you and we will seek your license to sell guns. We'll make sure you can't sell death and mayhem on our streets.' It's an outrage, and we'll end it."
A senior administration official told reporters Tuesday night that the Treasury Department will also inform states that they can use funds allotted by the American Rescue Plan to aid in reducing gun violence. Monies awarded via the COVID-19 relief law can be used to hire additional police officers and pay out overtime, as well as to assist in funding employment opportunities for youths and at-risk adults.
A key part of new White House package involves providing increased funding for local law enforcement officers to better combat crime surges, but the topic of policing and how officers should interact with the communities in which they work has often been a sticking point between Democratic moderates and progressives.
Biden has faced criticisms from gun safety advocates who say that the White House has not made gun reform enough of a priority, despite Biden's promises to work to curb violent crime.
In the early months of Biden's presidency, the nation saw a number of mass shootings that prompted new calls for gun reform, including the March 16 Atlanta spa shootings and the March 22 grocery store shooting in Boulder, Colo.
Since then, Biden has signed a series of executive actions on gun laws, calling America's gun violence an "international embarrassment."
The Department of Justice has also issued model legislation from which states can craft their own so-called red-flag laws to temporarily remove guns from certain people.