As gun crime surges in Chicago, Biden meets Mayor Lightfoot at airport

President Joe Biden met briefly with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday following a weekend of extreme violence once more over the Independence Day holiday.

The visit, which took place at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport as Biden was traveling to an event in McHenry County, Ill. came after more than 100 people were shot in the nation’s third-biggest city and 19 fatally, according to local reports.

Biden, who was in the state to talk up an infrastructure deal agreed to by a bipartisan group of senators and the White House, was greeted by Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker in addition to Lightfoot, who is also a Democrat, as he got off Air Force One.

Lightfoot has been under increasing pressure to deal with the massive spikes in criminal activity and shootings, the latter of which she has blamed not on her policies or a lack of gun law enforcement but on firearms themselves.

For his part, the president is also primarily focused on guns as he noted in a package of crime-fighting measures he introduced last month. In particular, the administration will seek to crack down on illegal guns, which criminologists say are a big contributing factor to shootings in the city.

“Chicago is also one of the five cities we announced recently,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters, referencing Biden’s crime efforts. “That’s going to be we’re going to be working with the Department of Justice, going to be working with and launching a gun trafficking strike force.”

It’s not clear what the task force will do or just how prevalent the gun trafficking problem is in Chicago, which has a long history of violence.

Republicans have focused on Democrats and Biden administration policies as crime rises significantly around the country with an eye towards retaking the House, the Senate, or both chambers in the November 2022 midterms.

GOP lawmakers are also tying the Biden administration and congressional Democrats to their prior calls for defunding police during last year’s rioting and violent protests following the death of George Floyd in late May 2020.

According to the most recent polling, rising crime has become a top concern among voters. To that point, former NYPD Capt. Eric Adams, who ran on a platform of prioritizing rising crime in that city, won the Democratic mayoral race this week.

According to a late June poll from ABC News and the Washington Post, Biden’s approval rating fell to 50 percent compared to a 42 percent disapproval; his approval-disapproval rating on crime was worse, however, at 38-48 percent.

In response to the holiday weekend violence, Lightfoot actually claimed that incidents were down year-over-year while defending Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown.

“I want you to know that we are doing absolutely everything that we can to stem the violence,” Lightfoot told reporters Monday. “I’ve met with many of you and I’ve heard your pain and anguish. I promise you, that I see you, that I hear you and that I feel you. You will never be lost to me. There is more that we can do and must do for victims and survivors.”

She blamed Congress, in part, for the uptick in violence, but said she’s finally glad to have a president who “gets it.”

During last year’s rioting and violent protests, then-President Donald Trump repeatedly offered to send federal assistance to Lightfoot, after she claimed she was “shocked” he hadn’t talked about looting in the city.

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Jon Dougherty

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