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Strike forces coming to five cities as AG Garland looks to tackle gun violence

Jul 22, 2021


Attorney General Merrick Garland officially launched a Justice Department plan to send gun trafficking strike forces to five American cities Thursday. The plan was initially announced last month. The video above shows AG Garland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco speaking about the strike forces.

In the announcement, the DOJ said, “the strike forces will focus on significant firearms trafficking corridors that channel guns into New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington, D.C. They will be led by designated U.S. Attorneys who will coordinate with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and with state and local law enforcement partners in places where firearms originate and where they are used to commit crimes.”

The strike forces will also share information and prosecutions across jurisdictions, according to the DOJ. Authorities have also embedded federal agents in homicide units of police departments across the U.S. Those agents have been deploying additional crime analysts and are conducting fugitive sweeps to arrest people who have outstanding state and federal warrants for violent crimes.

Violent crimes, particularly homicides and shootings, are up in many cities around the country. The Biden administration has sought to help communities affected by the violence.

The strike force differs from other recent federal efforts because it does not involve sending agents or prosecutors into cities with crime spikes. Justice officials say the strike forces are targeted prosecutions meant to be a longer-term effort to combat gun trafficking.

Right now, there is no federal gun trafficking law. Federal agents often must rely on other statutes, like lying on a firearms purchase form, to prosecute gun trafficking cases.

Officials hope the new plan will mean federal prosecutors in some of the supply cities will be more likely to bring charges in those cases.

While crime is rising in many U.S. cities, violent crime overall remains lower than it was a decade ago or even five years ago.

Experts say the spike in crime defies easy explanation. They point to a number of potential causes, including the pandemic, worries about the economy and large gatherings after months of stay-at-home orders.

Merrick Garland, U.S. Attorney General: “As you well know, ATF is at the front lines of our efforts to battle gun violence, and it’s only appropriate that frontline agencies should have a confirmed director. And so we are very hopeful that the Senate will soon act on Mr. Shipman’s (David Shipman) nomination so that the ATF will have a confirmed director in place for this very important operation. Today, we’re taking the opportunity to launch the five strike forces, which will battle illegal gun trafficking networks. This set of strike forces is just one part of our comprehensive anti-violent crime initiative, which we began in May. That initiative has three main foci. One is targeted enforcement. The second is building community trust, without which our law enforcement efforts will not succeed. And the third is providing funds for communities and high violent crime, particularly anti-gun prevention and violence intervention. These are joint efforts of the U.S. attorney’s offices of the ATF, the FBI and the DEA and the Marshals Services, all of the Justice Department, law enforcement agencies and authorities and resources. And in addition, we have greatly increased the grant programs that we have available to local communities and to local police departments.”

Lisa Monaco, Deputy Attorney General: “We all know that our job is to go after those who pulled the trigger and end up critically injuring and in some cases murdering innocent people. But our job is also, of course, to go after the sources of those guns, the corridors that they travel in, and the networks that feed those guns to the places where they are doing the most violent crime. And that’s what this series of a strike force efforts is really all about.”

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