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"We will find you": Biden signals crackdown on gun dealers who break the law

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Biden tackles gun control amid spike in violent crime 16:43

President Biden said he is holding out hope for the reinstatement of the Assault Weapons Ban after a speech outlining a strategy on crime and gun prevention. Mr. Biden's speech focused heavily on guns, saying his administration plans to reduce gun violence through revoking licenses to sell guns through loopholes. 

"Today the [Justice] Department is announcing a major crackdown to stem the flow of guns used to commit violent crimes," Mr. Biden said. "It's zero tolerance for gun dealers who willfully violate key existing laws and regulations. And I repeat, zero tolerance. If you willfully sell a gun to someone who is prohibited from possessing it, if you willfully fail to run a background check, if you willfully falsify a record, if you willfully fail to cooperate with inspections, my message to you is this: We will find you." 

Mr. Biden said the Justice Department may be used to reduce gun violence and close the "boyfriend loophole" to keep guns out of the hands of abusers. 

Mr. Biden called gun violence an "epidemic" throughout the country and reiterated the cyclical nature of violence with more crime in the summer annually. The president also warned that after the pandemic this "traditional summer spike may be more pronounced."

Mr.  Biden's speech is centered around the 30% increase in homicides last year during the pandemic across the country, according to a 34-city sample from the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice, which was cited by the White House.

Aggravated assaults and gun assaults also rose by 6% and 8% last year, according to the study.

The White House refused to specify earlier this week when asked why Mr. Biden is speaking now, although Republicans have been focusing on crime as violent crimes have increased this year and ahead of the 2022 elections. In New York City, for example, polls showed crime and public safety as the top issue in Tuesday's primary. 

But the plan is focused on local initiatives that are voluntary, such as suggesting cities use leftover COVID-19 pandemic relief funds for community policing funds or teenage job programs. Mr. Biden has already rolled out several executive action aimed at curbing gun violence, and has called on Congress to ban assault weapons. 

Attorney General Merrick Garland, who spoke ahead of Mr. Biden, outlined how his office will work with "state, local, Tribal and territorial law enforcement." 

"Every U.S. Attorney's Office is working with its local partners to establish an immediate plan to address the spike in violent crime that typically occurs during the summer," Garland said. 


Watch Biden's full speech

Biden calls for more gun prevention efforts, warns of summer crime spike 19:57

President Biden spoke Wednesday on crime, focusing heavily on guns and saying his administration plans to reduce gun violence through revoking licenses to sell guns through loopholes. Watch his speech.  


President advocates to re-install the assault weapons ban

After his remarks, Mr. Biden was asked if he is holding out hope that Congress can pass another ban on assault weapons: "I never give up hope," the president replied.

Passed in 1994, the first federal ban on assault weapons banned the sale of semi-automatic weapons and large capacity magazines to civilians, but the law expired in 2004. One study in 2019 in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery found that homicides from mass-shooting incidents were reduced while the assault weapons ban was in place.  

At least seven states and Washington, D.C., have moved to ban assault weapons. 

By Bo Erickson

President warns there may be "summer spike" of violence, announces COVID-19 funds can be used to boost community policing

Mr. Biden called gun violence an "epidemic" throughout the country and reiterated the cyclical nature of violence with more crime in the summer annually. The president also warned that after the pandemic this "traditional summer spike may be more pronounced."

Mr.  Biden's speech is centered around the 30% increase in homicides last year during the pandemic across the country, according to a 34-city sample from the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice, which was cited by the White House.

Aggravated assaults and gun assaults also rose by 6% and 8% last year, according to the study.

The Biden administration on Wednesday is also issuing new guidance to state and local governments on how they can use the already-passed $350 billion from the latest COVID-19 relief package, the American Rescue Plan, to pay for more community policing. The Treasury Department specifically states that some local governments can hire law enforcement officials "even above pre-pandemic levels" or pay over time "in those communities experiencing an increase in gun violence associated with the pandemic." 

Mr. Biden also said local governments could use the COVID-19 appropriate money to buy devices to tackle gun violence like gun-shot detection systems, but also to scale up social services like substance abuse and mental-health services. 

About 74% of the 13,927 murder victims nationwide in 2019 were killed by people using a firearm, according to the latest FBI statistics.  

By Bo Erickson

Biden says there will be a "zero tolerance" policy on gun dealers who break the law

In his remarks, Mr. Biden said there would be a "zero tolerance" policy for gun dealers who break the law.

"My message to you is this: we will find you, and we'll seek your license to sell guns," Mr. Biden said. "We will make sure you can't sell death and mayhem on our streets."

Mr. Biden also argued that there is no need for people to own assault weapons.

"No one needs to have a weapon that can fire over 30, 40, 50, even up to 100 rounds — unless you think the deer are wearing kevlar vests or something," he said.

By Grace Segers

Garland announces next steps for preventing violent crime

Garland spoke ahead of Mr. Biden, outlining how the Justice Department will offer "targeted support of the critical work" of state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement partners. Garland announced $1 billion in grants "to support evidence-based community violence intervention strategies."

Garland also announced new efforts to combat gun violence, with greater enforcement for gun dealers who break the law, and by seeking funding to aid the ATF's dealer inspection capacity and improve its effectiveness.

"Starting today, ATF will make clear to investigators in every field division that, as they prioritize inspections, they must consider the extent to which firearms sold by a dealer are later used in criminal activity," Garland said.

Garland also announced that the Justice Department will "improve information sharing" with state, local, tribal and territorial partners, as well as "a concerted effort to crack down on gun traffickers."

"The Justice Department's violent crime reduction strategy, and our initiatives to stem the rising tide of illegal guns, will save lives," Garland said. "But these steps alone will not solve the problem of violent crime. Success depends on all of us joining together – those of you in this room, the many like you across the country who are working to keep communities safe, and the people of our communities themselves."

By Grace Segers

Republicans criticize Biden's plan to address crime

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters on Wednesday that he believed the White House was "misdiagnosing the problem" with the newly announced approach to combat gun violence and violent crime.

"There's nothing in this five-point plan that I think addresses the root cause of the problem, which is lack of prosecution and a sense that the cops are afraid to do their job," said Graham, who is one of the senators involved in bipartisan negotiations on police reform legislation. "You've got to reinforce policing as a noble profession, you've got to tell prosecutors, 'start prosecuting people,' because there's a sense of lawlessness out there that's not being addressed."

The Republican National Committee also released a statement on Wednesday condemning the Biden administration's response to violent crime.

"Actions speak louder than words, and President Biden's failure to hold his own party accountable for defunding police is endangering communities and triggering a spike in crime across the country," said RNC national press secretary Emma Vaughn.

By Grace Segers

Biden rolling out gun violence prevention strategy

Biden rolling out gun violence prevention strategy 06:43

President Biden is unveiling a new initiative aimed at tackling what he calls the nation's "gun violence epidemic." The administration's initiatives include stemming the flow of illegal guns, supporting local law enforcement and investing in community violence intervention methods. The administration will also expand summer programming and employment opportunities for teenagers and young adults and lay out a strategy to help formerly incarcerated individuals successfully reenter their communities. Paul Smith, director of reconciliation at the National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, joined CBSN to discuss.  


How to watch Biden and attorney general deliver remarks

  • What: President Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland deliver remarks on the administration's gun crime prevention strategy
  • Date: Wednesday, June 23, 2021 
  • Time: 3:30 pm. ET
  • Location: State Dining Room, The White House, Washington, D.C.
  • Online stream: Live on CBSN in the player above and on your mobile or streaming device

Psaki says Biden has been "consistent" on his views on guns

White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated to reporters on Wednesday that President Biden has been "consistent" on gun violence.

"He has also been a longtime advocate for decades and leader on addressing gun violence," Psaki said. "So this is actually a continuity of his leadership on these issues over the course of decades."

Psaki also insisted Wednesday that Mr. Biden had never been a supporter of "defunding the police. He has always been a supporter of ensuring that local community policing is funding and adequately supported by the federal government."

As for why Mr. Biden is discussing crime and gun violence now, Psaki did not offer a specific reason when asked on Tuesday. But she argued this focus is a "continuation" of actions already taken by the administration to address gun violence. However, the crime study cited by the White House from the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice may offer context for this week's presidential speech as the commission underscores that violence is "cyclical" with more crime happening in the summer months.

Bo Erickson and Caroline Linton  


Harris to visit border Friday

 Vice President Kamala Harris is going to the U.S.-Mexico border with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Friday for her first trip to the border since being tapped to stem the flow of migration from Central America, the White House said Wednesday.

President Biden has tasked Harris with addressing the root causes of increased migration at the southern border, but Republicans have criticized Harris for failing to go to the border until now. Harris visited Guatemala and Mexico earlier this month, and when she was asked why she wasn't visiting the border during a television interview, she compared not visiting the border to not visiting Europe.

Harris will travel to El Paso, Texas, senior adviser Symone Sanders said in a statement.

Tim Perry and Kathryn Watson  


Biden speaks at Senator John Warner's funeral ahead of speech

Biden remembers late Senator John Warner at his funeral 09:29

President Biden spoke at the funeral of former Republican Senator John Warner of Virginia on Wednesday, praising the late lawmaker's legacy of bipartisanship at a time when there is very little of it. The funeral for Warner, a moderate Republican, evoked an arguably bygone era of bipartisan camaraderie and cooperation. 

"Even when we disagreed, from John's perspective, especially when we disagreed, that's how John forged consensus. And made sure our system worked, and delivered for the people," Mr. Biden said. "I saw it time and again, on issues of war and peace, John opposing torture, and ending gun violence. On protecting the rule of law, and the independence of the judiciary. John's decisions were always guided by his values, by his convictions, and never by personal political consequences." 

Warner and Biden served decades together in the Senate. Warner was a senator from 1979 to 2009, while Mr. Biden served in the upper chamber from 1973 to 2009. 

Mr. Biden is expected to speak this afternoon from the White House on crime. 

Read more here

By Kathryn Watson

White House plan has 5 major points

According to the White House, the plan will consist of five parts:

  1. "Stem the flow of firearms used to commit violence, including by holding rogue firearms dealers accountable for violating federal laws": Senior administration officials said this will include a new Justice Department "zero tolerance" policy, where ATF will revoke the licenses of gun dealers after the first time they willfully violate gun laws.

  2. "Support local law enforcement with federal tools and resources to help address summer violent crime": The Treasury Department will announce Wednesday that communities that have experienced a rise in gun violence due to the pandemic will be allowed to use funds from the American Rescue Plan to go toward law enforcement hiring and overtime, prevention programs and technology. 

  3. "Invest in evidence-based community violence interventions": Communities will also be able to use American Rescue Plan funding towards community violence intervention programs, senior administration officials said. 

  4. "Expanding summer programming, employment opportunities, and other services and supports for teenagers and young adults."

  5. "Help formerly incarcerated individuals successfully reenter their communities."

By Kristin Brown

Democratic leader in NYC mayoral race talks crime in election night speech

Eric Adams, who was leading the Democratic race in the New York City mayoral primary after the initial results were released, touched on crime during his speech Tuesday. 

"If Black lives really matter, it can't only be against police abuse," Adams said. He added that "let's be honest about ensuring Black Lives Matter" in issues "that affect us everyday" such as crime, guns, food and housing. 

Adams, who is Black, is a former police officer who has made crime prevention a major part of his campaign. "If we can beat the pandemic of a virus, we can beat the pandemic of crime," he said. 

By Caroline Linton
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