Biden to meet with local leaders to rev up fight against gun violence

AR-15 style rifles are displayed for sale at Firearms Unknown, a gun store in Oceanside, California,  April 12, 2021.

AR-15 style rifles are displayed for sale at Firearms Unknown, a gun store in Oceanside, California, April 12, 2021. (Bing Guan, Reuters)


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WASHINGTON (Reuters) — President Joe Biden will meet with local law enforcement leaders, elected officials and an expert on community violence intervention at the White House on Monday as he seeks to bolster support for his plans to crack down on gun violence.

Biden, who has pledged to push for sweeping changes to firearms laws, last month unveiled measures to stem the flow of firearms used in crimes, building on executive orders signed in April that include a push by the Justice Department to better control self-assembled "ghost guns."

The president, who has longstanding ties to law enforcement, has also announced steps to hold rogue firearms dealers accountable for violating federal laws and help states hire more police officers using COVID-19 rescue funds.

Attorney General Merrick Garland will join Biden in the meeting.

The discussions come amid a jump in violent crimes — with homicides up 30% and gun violence up 8% in 2020 — and mounting concern among gun-control activists that Biden has not done more to combat what he calls an "epidemic" of gun violence.

Republicans have called the spike in crime evidence of weak Democratic policies and are looking to make crime a focus of the 2022 elections that will determine control of Congress.

Biden promised during his campaign that he would take action against gun violence on the first day of his administration, but critics say his efforts to date have been limited.

Gun rights, which are protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, are one of the thorniest issues in American politics. Democrats, who generally support gun controls, hold only a razor-thin majority in Congress, while Republicans generally oppose new limits on firearms.

Republicans have sought to portray Biden as supportive of calls to "defund the police" that surfaced last summer after the murder of a Black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis by a white police officer.

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The White House says Biden has firmly rejected those calls, and his proposed budget would actually boost funding for community policing by $300 million. It also pours $750 million in additional funds into federal law enforcement agencies like the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Biden has also taken steps to crack down on illegal gun sales from licensed dealers, reduce gun trafficking in major cities, and strongly backs expanded background checks.

White House officials say local communities around the country are using money from Biden's COVID-19 rescue package to bolster summer programming, create job opportunities in at-risk communities, and fund community violence intervention programs - all measures aimed at reducing gun violence.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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