A rack of rifles are shown inside a New Jersey gun shop in July 2020. A two-year set of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives records found many of the weapons dealers recommended to lose their licenses instead kept them. The New Jersey shop was not cited in the records reviewed by reporters. (Thomas P. Costello/Asbury Park Press)

President Joe Biden launched a new crime prevention strategy Wednesday in a push to take on soaring gun violence as Republicans blame a rise in crime on calls from progressive activists to cut police funding.

In a speech from the White House, Biden announced a “zero-tolerance policy” for rogue gun dealers and a new focus by the Justice Department to try to stop the illegal sale of firearms.

Biden also emphasized that cities and states can use their portions of $350 billion in direct aid from Biden’s COVID-19 rescue plan, approved by Congress in March, on public safety efforts, including hiring more police officers.

“This is not a time to turn our backs on law enforcement or our communities,” Biden said.

The president’s push comes as he has been unable to gain Republican support in Congress to pass sweeping gun control legislation. Republicans plan to seize on the crime surge – and the “defund the police” mantra of some liberals – to attack Democrats in a bid to take back control of the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections.