U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland pictured during the Chiefs of Police Executive Forum, at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Garland said the DOJ is using all its tools to help state and local law enforcement combat gun violence. Pool Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo
May 5 (UPI) -- The Justice Department is committed to using every tool to support local and state efforts to fight gun crime, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland told police chiefs gathered for a forum on gun violence in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.
Speaking at the headquarters of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Garland said the DOJ has finalized a rule on "ghost guns," saying parts kits that can readily be converted into assembled firearms will now be treated as what they are: firearms.
"This means that those who engage in the business of dealing in these guns will be required to mark every frame or receiver with a serial number, so that the guns can be traced if they are used in crimes," Garland said.
He cited a Chicago mass shooting that ATF helped police investigate. Police recovered guns from the crime.
"ATF traced those guns and found that five of them had recently been purchased from federally licensed firearms dealers located hundreds of miles away. Further investigations by our agents and law enforcement partners uncovered a gun trafficking conspiracy involving over 90 guns and 12 defendants," Garland said.
Garland said ATF is tracing a record number of firearms, over half a million last year. He said ATF's National Integrated Ballistic Information Network turns the evidence that law enforcement agencies collect at crime scenes into leads that assist in identifying, investigating and prosecuting those who commit violent crimes.
Garland said DOJ's fiscal 2023 budget request includes more than $8 billion in grants for states and localities to "fund local law enforcement, to build trust with the communities they serve, and to implement community-based strategies to prevent gun crime and gun violence."
He said those who commercially sell those guns must be federally licensed, maintain records and run background checks before a sale as they would do with any other guns.
The DOJ has told all 94 U.S. attorneys' offices across the country to work with their state and local partners to address the violent crime problems specific to their districts.
Garland said the COPS Hiring Program has provided $139 million in grants to 183 law enforcement agencies to hire more than 1,000 additional full-time officers.
"We know how much is being asked of you and your officers right now. We know that every day -- no matter the difficulty, no matter the danger -- you show up," Garland said, "You make extraordinary sacrifices. You put your lives on the line. And you do this because you care deeply about the communities you serve."