(The Center Square) – Attorney General Merrick Garland visited Chicago Thursday amid a surge in gun violence in the city to launch five cross-jurisdictional strike forces to help reduce gun violence by curbing illegal weapons trafficking.
Garland, of Lincolnwood, said the regional strike forces will focus on New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area/Sacramento Region and Washington, D.C.
Each will be led by United States Attorneys, who will collaborate with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and with state and local law enforcement partners.
“All too often, guns found at crime scenes come from hundreds or even thousands of miles away," Attorney General Merrick Garland said. "We are redoubling our efforts as ATF works with law enforcement to track the movement of illegal firearms used in violent crimes.
Garland's visit comes amid violence in parts of Chicago. Ten people were shot Wednesday on the West Side. Hours later, eight people were shot on the Near North Side, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker welcomed Merrick to the city.
"I'm very glad that the Attorney General is here today and we've been coordinating through our state police with the U.S. Attorney's Office and therefore with the Attorney General's Office to make sure that we're doing everything that we can to interrupt the flow of guns that are coming across the border from our neighboring states, which have less stringent gun safety laws on the books," Pritzker said at an unrelated news conference Thursday.
Pritzker also said the Illinois State Police remain ready to assist Chicago officials if called upon.
He also said he recently spoke with President Joe Biden about gun violence across the country, which he said is not limited to Chicago and other big cities, but includes Rockford, Champaign and Carbondale.
"I know we are taking swift action with these new strike forces," Pritzker said.
The governor said the National Guard could be called in if needed, but said the National Guard is not a police force. He said any support from the guard would be limited to assistance roles, as has been the case in the past, including rioting and looting in Chicago last year after the murder of George Floyd.
Garland will also be in Chicago on Friday.