(NEW YORK) — Days after two police officers were killed by a suspect using an illegal gun, President Joe Biden headed to New York City Thursday to meet with Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul and to announce new actions targeting gun violence that the White House says builds on his “comprehensive strategy” unveiled last June.
“Enough is enough because we know we can do things about this,” Biden said in afternoon remarks from NYPD headquarters. “But for the resistance we’re getting from some sectors of the government and the Congress and the state legislatures and the organizational structures out there — you know, Mayor Adams, you and I agree, the answer is not to abandon our streets, that’s not the answer.”
“The answer is to come together, the police and the communities, building trust and making us all safer. The answer is not to defund the police, it’s to give you the tools, the training, the funding to be partners, to be protectors and community needs you,” Biden said to applause. “Police need to treat everyone with respect and dignity.”
Senior administration officials said on a call with reporters Wednesday evening that Biden is visiting New York City “because it is a community where they continue, like many other cities across the country, to experience a spike in gun violence.”
Traveling with Attorney General Merrick Garland, Biden’s trip intends to highlight a set of new actions from the Justice Department which includes directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to increase resources dedicated to district-specific violent crime strategies, and increasing personnel and other resources to strengthen task forces that target the illegal flow of guns up the East Coast, similar to the one that was used in the recent fatal shooting of two NYPD officers.
Biden said the Department of Justice will also take steps “today” to prioritize federal prosecutions of those who “criminally sell or transfer firearms that are used in violent crimes” and launch a National Ghost Gun Enforcement Initiative to help bring cases against those who use so-called “ghost guns” to commit crimes.
“If you commit a crime with a ghost gun, not only are state and local prosecutors gonna come after you, but expect federal charges and federal prosecution as well,” Biden said Thursday.
The president introduced the new initiatives at a meeting on gun violence prevention before of heading to Queens with Garland, Adams and Hochul to discuss community violence intervention programs with local leaders.
“I’ll keep doing everything in my power to make sure that communities are safer, but Congress needs to do its part, too,” Biden said in prepared remarks. “Pass universal background checks, ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines, close loopholes to keep out of the hands of domestic abusers weapons, repeal the liability shield for gun manufacturers.”
He also offered a word for the families of the fallen NYPD officers to begin the meeting.
“Detective Wilmer Mora and Jason Rivera are the who and what law enforcement ought to be,” Biden said, calling the stolen glock the suspect allegedly used “really a weapon of war.” “I’ve spoken to their families, and their loss for the city is also a loss for the nation.”
After a series of mass shootings at the start of his presidency last year and facing pressure to act, Biden issued a half dozen limited gun control executive actions in April, which included actions on “ghost guns” and pistol-stabilizing braces.
The president is limited in his authority to act alone on gun control reforms and is continuing to call on Congress to act legislatively, though after months of negotiations, the most recent talks on gun reforms failed in September.
On Thursday, Biden will ask them to reach a bipartisan agreement on an appropriations bill that includes $300 million to expand community policing and $200 million for evidence-based community violence interventions.
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