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President Biden highlights new milestone in illegal firearm prosecutions at gun safety summit

The Biden administration announced more than 500 prosecutions under new gun regulations.
Posted at 10:08 AM, Jun 11, 2024

Less than two years after President Joe Biden signed into law the Safer Communities Act, bipartisan legislation expanding background checks for gun sales and cracking down on illegal trafficking efforts, the Department of Justice has charged more than 500 defendants with violating provisions under it.

Among those charged under the first-ever federal statute specifically targeting unlawful gun trafficking and straw purchasing were a New Mexico man who admitted to illegally buying and selling “hundreds” of firearms, a Pennsylvanian sentenced to 10 years for trafficking ghost gun “hit kits,” and five Texas individuals who allegedly trafficked military-grade firearms to a Mexican drug cartel.

“Criminals rely on illegal gun traffickers and straw purchasers to obtain the weapons they use to harm our communities,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement late Monday. “The Justice Department is using the new tools given to us in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to hold accountable those who fuel gun violence.”

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President Biden highlighted the prosecution milestone during remarks Tuesday afternoon at Everytown’s “Gun Sense University” summit in Washington, D.C., an annual event organized by the gun safety group and its partners to share organizing strategies and train volunteers.

"It's the most significant gun legislation in nearly 30 years, and we passed it only because you all went out and worked like hell to get it done," Biden said.

Though Vice President Kamala Harris addressed the group’s conference last year in Chicago, Tuesday’s event marked the first time a sitting president participated, something organizers touted as a testament to the administration’s commitment to gun violence prevention.

“The president is going to be here supporting and really kind of rooting on these strong volunteers that are going to continue their work in the states across this country, especially as we're nearing elections,” Angela Ferrell-Zabala, executive director of Moms Demand Action, told Scripps News in an interview. “We know how critical it is, and how elections have big consequences when it comes to the issue of gun safety in this country.”

During his remarks, President Biden touted his administration’s actions addressing gun safety. Beyond advocating for the Safer Communities Act, the president pursued executive orders to crack down on illegal gun sellers and established the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, tasked with encouraging state and local policy changes to promote collaborations on the issue.

"This historic law is already saving lives but there's still so much more to do," he said.

Harris, who chairs the task force, met last week with survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, many of whom are soon set to graduate from high school more than 11 years after a gunman killed 26 people — 20 of whom were children — in Newtown, Connecticut.

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During a campaign event in Maryland last Friday, Harris took the issue of gun regulations head-on, arguing it’s “a false choice to suggest that you have to be in favor of the Second Amendment or you want to take everyone’s guns away.”

Indeed, the Biden campaign is seeking to contrast the president’s record on gun safety to former President Donald Trump’s and highlight the broad appeal of gun violence prevention measures. In a memo released Tuesday, senior Biden-Harris campaign spokesman Kevin Munoz drew attention to Trump’s ties to the NRA, arguing the former president “will choose special interests and the gun lobby over our safety every single time.”

A spokesperson for the Trump campaign did not immediately respond to inquiries about Munoz’s comments.

President Biden’s participation in the summit comes a day after the FBI released the quarterly crime report and use-of-force data for the first part of 2024. From January to March, violent crime decreased by 15% overall as compared to the same period last year, the agency said, with murders and rape each down 26%, robbery down 18% and aggravated assaults down 13%.

“This progress we’re seeing is no accident. My Administration is putting more cops on the beat, holding violent criminals accountable, and getting illegal guns off the street — and we are doing it in partnership with communities,” President Biden said in a statement touting the data.