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DOJ Launches ‘Strike Forces’ in 5 Cities to Fight Illegal Gun Trafficking

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Attorney General Merrick Garland is on Thursday officially launching five cross-jurisdictional strike forces to disrupt illegal firearms trafficking in key regions across the country, according to officials.

Merrick, along with deputy attorney general Lisa Monaco, will on Thursday visit the Washington headquarters of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for the official launch of the program, before traveling to Chicago—one of the five strike force cities—later in the day, officials said.

“All too often, guns found at crime scenes come from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. We are redoubling our efforts as ATF works with law enforcement to track the movement of illegal firearms used in violent crimes,” Garland said in a statement. “These strike forces enable sustained coordination across multiple jurisdictions to help disrupt the worst gun trafficking corridors.”

The move, which the Department of Justice (DOJ) first announced on June 22, is meant to strengthen enforcement against gun trafficking networks to disrupt the flow of unlawfully obtained firearms to places where they are used to commit crimes.

At the time, Garland said the measure is designed to bolster cooperation between the federal government and “local partners,” while hailing the move as “another concrete step to address violent crime and illegal firearms trafficking.”

 Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, on June 25, 2021. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images).

The DOJ said the strike forces will be concentrated in “significant gun trafficking corridors” including New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington.

DOJ officials said during a Wednesday call with reporters that the new strategy entails a “long-term coordinated, multi-jurisdictional strategy” to disrupt gun trafficking networks.

A department official said the new strategy establishes “cross-jurisdictional coordination” between the areas that supply the illegal firearms and places where the guns are used to commit crimes.

“This new approach that links law enforcement and prosecutors and locations where violence is occurring with the law enforcement and prosecutors in the jurisdictions where the firearms originate broadens our focus to ensure a comprehensive and coordinated response in both of those areas,” the official added.

The funding for the strike forces comes from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, according to the White House.

The initiative builds on the Justice Department’s recently unveiled “Violent Crime Reduction Initiative” that is designed to make clear “that firearms traffickers that provide weapons to violent offenders are an enforcement priority across the country,” the DOJ said.

The move comes as a number of U.S. cities have seen significant increases in homicides in 2021 as compared with the same time last year, according to FBI data.

It also comes as Democrat members of Congress have introduced a series of gun-control bills, including bans on so-called “assault weapons,” bans on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, and efforts to expand background checks.

Jack Phillips contributed to this report.