President Biden in remarks Wednesday said his crime prevention strategy would focus on strengthening background checks, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and boosting community policing.
Biden met with state and local leaders and law enforcement officials ahead of his remarks to talk crime prevention strategy, amid a surge in violence in cities across the U.S.
Both Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland, who spoke before him, pointed to a historic rise in crime in the summertime, and said that rise "may be more pronounced" as the nation comes out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The White House has insisted curbing gun violence is key to tamping down a "staggering" surge of crime across the U.S.
"Talk to most responsible gun owners they'll tell you there's no possible justification for having 100 rounds in a magazine," Biden said.
Biden also took aim at an argument used by Second Amendment advocates, that the right to self-defense needed to protect against potential government tyranny.
"Those who say the blood of Patriots, you know, and all the stuff about how we’re gonna have to move against the government," Biden said. "If you think you need to have weapons to take on the government, you need F-15s and maybe some nuclear weapons."
"We're not changing the Constitution. We're enforcing it," the president continued.
Biden touted "zero tolerance" for gun dealers who willfully violate the law, and claimed that 90% of illegal guns found at crime scenes were traced back to 5% of gun dealers.
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.
"If you willfully sell a gun to someone who's prohibited from possessing it, if you willfully fail to run a background check, if you willfully falsify a record ... my message to you is this: We'll find you and we will seek your license to sell guns," Biden said.
The National Rifle Association said the Biden initiative was an attempt to distract from the true causes of a rise in crime.
"This is a political red herring aimed at hiding the real and abysmal failures of the Biden administration," NRS spokeswoman Amy Hunter told Fox News. "Crime rates are high because of the efforts to defund the police and a failure to prosecute career criminals. The simple fact is strict enforcement of existing laws - including gun laws - coupled with support of law enforcement and prosecutors to do their jobs would result in a dramatic decrease in crime. But, the president would rather play politics than make Americans safer."
Biden also boasted of "historic funding for crime prevention" in the $350 billion for state and local governments, from the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, that 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. 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 last month sought to update the legal definition of "firearm" in an effort to crack down on ghost guns.
Biden also pushed hiring programs to keep young people busy and off the streets during the summer months, as they’re often both the target and perpetrators of such violence. Biden said such programs encouraged youth to "pick up a paycheck instead of a pistol."
The president said the DOJ has created five new "strike forces" to crack down on illegal gun trafficking cartels and called on the Senate to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, thereby closing the "boyfriend loophole" to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.