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Biden calls for hiring more police, cracking down on illegal guns to combat crime

President Biden on Monday convened a group of federal law enforcement and community leaders at the White House to discuss his administration’s comprehensive strategy to reduce gun crimes, saying there is “no one-size-fits-all approach” to combating gun violence and doubling down on the need to hire more police officers and crack down on illegal firearms. 

The president, on Monday, hosted a number of administration officials, including Attorney General Merrick Garland, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, White House counsel Dana Remus and domestic policy adviser Susan Rice, as well as mayors from Washington, D.C., and San Jose, California, and police chiefs from Memphis, Chicago, Wilmington, N.C., and Newark, N.J.

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The president welcomed attendees, noting that he and the attorney general have “been at this a long time,” adding that it “seems like most of my career I’ve been dealing with this issue.” 

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach,” the president said. “We know there are some things that work, and the first of those that work is stemming the flow of firearms used to commit violent crimes.” 

The president said that includes “cracking down on holding rogue gun dealers accountable for violating the federal law. That includes the Justice Department creating five new strike forces to crack down on illegal gun trafficking in the corridor, supplying weapons to cities of New York, to the Bay Area.” 

“Our strategy provides, including funding for law enforcement through the American Rescue Plan for states, cities, and to be able to hire police and pay them overtime in order to advance community policing,” the president said, adding that the administration’s plan also will “invest in community violence intervention.”

“What we want to do, is when we know we utilize trusted community members, and encourage more community policing, we can intervene before the violence erupts,” he explained, saying that has been “the consensus in our experience and community violence prevention programs have shown to reduce crime in some cities by 60%.” 

A White House memo sent Monday morning to state and local officials discussed the need “to put more police officers on the beat,” and urged the use of American Rescue Plan funding to hire more law enforcement officers, bringing the police forces back “above pre-pandemic levels in communities experiencing an increase in gun violence associated with the pandemic.” 

The president also said the strategy will fund other “vital services,” like mental health and substance abuse programs, as well as job training and summer job programs. 

“This is going to help prevent crime and support young people, to pick up a paycheck, instead of a pistol,” Biden said. 

The administration’s strategy also will help formerly incarcerated people “successfully reenter society with housing, jobs, training and other support.” 

“We know this will help,” the president said. “This will make us all safer.” 

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“The American Rescue Plan funds programs to help get job training and apprenticeships and work experience so they can gain stability and security and a chance for a better life,” the president said. “There’s a lot more to my strategy, but that’s at the core.” 

He added: “It’s about coordinating at the federal, state and local level.” 

Before the meeting Monday, senior administration officials told Fox News that contributors to gun violence are multifaceted, so it takes a multifaceted approach to tackle the issue. 

One official said the administration plans to provide federal resources, including additional FBI and ATF funding to help states and localities reduce gun violence, the ARP funding to hire additional police officers and advance community policing, and investments in community violence prevention. 

The official added that ATF is moving to tackle gun dealers through the administration’s “zero tolerance” program, which was announced last month. 

The president and attorney general last month announced a “zero tolerance” policy for gun dealers who willfully violate the law, as part of the Biden administration’s strategy to combat what the Justice Department calls a “staggering” surge in violent crime. 

The “zero tolerance” policy targets federally licensed firearms dealers who “willfully” transfer a weapon to someone prohibited from owning one or ignore a tracing request from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The ATF would seek to revoke the dealer’s license after the first offense, a senior White House official said.

At the time, the Department of Justice announced that it is launching “strike forces” to target gun traffickers and to provide more transparency around the enforcement of federally licensed firearms dealer policies. 

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The DOJ “strike force” teams are meant to target illegal gun trafficking in five cities –  New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay area and Washington, D.C. – all locales where authorities have said many guns used in crimes originate elsewhere.

The strike force teams will coordinate with ATF and share information with local and state law enforcement agencies about where firearms originate and where they are used to commit crimes in an effort to bring down gun-dealing rings.

Meanwhile, senior administration officials told Fox News that they are “eager” to work with state and local officials, law enforcement, community violence intervention experts “no matter what their politics are.” 

“This is one of the most bipartisan issues there is, and gun violence doesn’t discriminate regarding whether you are Democratic or Republican,” the official said, adding that officials “continue to do repeated outreach.” 

“It is important for us that we demonstrate that we are eager to engage with Republican leadership on this important issue,” the official added. 

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Biden discussed how $350 billion of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package can be used by cities to hire law enforcement officers, pay overtime, prosecute gun traffickers and invest in technology to make law enforcement more efficient. The officials said the Biden administration hoped cities would choose to use the money for alternatives to policing, too, and to invest in community policing models.

The administration has also taken aim at “ghost guns” and modified firearms, which are homemade firearms without serial numbers that can be used to trace them, making it difficult for law enforcement to determine where, by whom, or when they were manufactured and to whom they were sold.

The Justice Department’s ATF in May sought to update the legal definition of “firearm” in an effort to crack down on ghost guns. 

The administration also said they would support local law enforcement with federal tools and resources to help address summer violent crime and invest in evidence-based community violence interventions. Administration officials said those investments would expand summer programming, employment opportunities, and other services and supports for teenagers and young adults, as well as help formerly incarcerated individuals successfully reenter their communities.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.