Skip to content

Biden ‘zero tolerance’ policy to target rogue gun dealers

Broad strategy to include inspecting dealers, revoking licenses and more

President Joe Biden, with Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, speaks about gun violence prevention in the Rose Garden of the White House on April 8.
President Joe Biden, with Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, speaks about gun violence prevention in the Rose Garden of the White House on April 8. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

The Biden administration plans to crack down on rogue gun dealers as part of a comprehensive strategy to be announced Wednesday to stem a rising tide of gun violence in the United States.

The Justice Department will announce a new “zero tolerance” policy to revoke the federal licenses of firearms dealers who willfully violate gun laws, senior administration officials said. That includes actions such as selling a gun to someone who is prohibited from possessing one, failing to do a background check on gun purchasers or falsifying records.

And the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will focus limited resources on inspecting those gun dealers who need it most, the officials said. That effort will employ crime data and closer connections with local law enforcement and community leaders who can point out problem dealers.

[New mass shootings reveal old divisions on gun control proposals]

President Joe Biden’s fiscal 2022 budget request included more funding for ATF to add gun dealer inspectors across the country, but these policies allow federal law enforcement to take action before Congress gets through the appropriations process, likely in late September.

Biden is expected to introduce the broader gun violence prevention strategy later Wednesday, which also includes freeing up cities to use coronavirus relief funds to hire police officers, bolster summer youth programs and help former prisoners get a job after they are released.

Biden also will meet Wednesday with state and local leaders and community violence intervention experts about “what they are seeing on the ground” and how the federal budget and the federal government can help them make their communities safer, administration officials said.

The United States had an 8 percent increase in shootings in large cities in 2020, an administration official said, and a 30 percent increase in homicides over the past year and a half. The trend is continuing: Homicides in the first three months of 2021 are 24 percent higher than in the same period last year.

Some of the new moves build on themes from recent Biden actions on gun violence, such as additional support for community gun violence intervention programs, Department of Labor funds for youth workforce development programs and training programs for people who have left prison.

Biden will announce Wednesday an 18-month-long collaborative of 14 cities that will spend federal funds on that kind of direct work with individuals in racially segregated, high-poverty neighborhoods where a spike in homicides has been the worst, according to an administration fact sheet released Wednesday morning.

Cities in the collaborative, such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Newark, N.J., will get technical support from the government and nonprofit groups. Biden included $5 billion for those community gun violence intervention programs in his $2 trillion infrastructure proposal, and the Justice Department has emphasized them in grant programs.

The Office of Personnel Management will consider whether to create a new authority for federal agencies to hire for a year those who have been released from prison, the fact sheet said.

And OPM will publish regulations to implement a 2019 law that prohibits federal employers and federal contractors from inquiring about arrest and conviction history of applicants until they have made a conditional job offer.

Recent Stories

Capitol Ink | Supreme sausage

Peters pitches AI legislation as model for private sector

Capitol Lens | Show chopper

After a ‘rough’ start, Sen. Fetterman opens up about his mental health journey

Supreme Court enters crunch time for term loaded with big issues

Biden shifts from defending his record to warning about Trump