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

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.