White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday crime in Chicago is “driven by morality more than anything else.”
Sanders’ remark came in response to a question about whether easy access to guns was responsible for the high murder rate in Chicago, which President Donald Trump tweeted about Friday morning.
“I think that the problem there is that it’s a crime problem. I think crime is probably driven by morality more than anything else,” Sanders said.
Trump had tweeted: “Crime and killings in Chicago have reached such epidemic proportions that I am sending in Federal help. 1714 shootings in Chicago this year.”
The Chicago Police Department and Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced Friday a new task force aimed at decreasing the spread of illegal guns throughout the Windy City.
CNN was first to report earlier this year the formation of the team, which the ATF called in internal documents the “Chicago Crime Gun Strike Force.”
The team will include an additional 20 ATF agents, who arrived in early June, according to a city official, as well as Chicago police officers, Illinois state troopers, intelligence analysts and state and federal prosecutors.
“This new strike force will significantly help our police officers stem the flow of illegal guns and create a culture of accountability for the small subset of individuals and gangs who disproportionally drive violence in our city,” said Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson.
The President threatened to send in help early in his administration after months of campaigning against crime in Chicago and other major cities.
“If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible ‘carnage’ going on … I will send in the Feds,” he tweeted four days after his inauguration.
The Trump administration has been criticized for calling Chicago a “war zone” and “totally out of control” despite not laying out a long-term vision for America’s cities.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office confirmed Friday that the ATF agents were in the city and praised the police department’s progress in addressing the city’s challenges with violence.
“Six months ago, we made it clear that we would welcome additional federal support, and six months later we appreciate the 20 new ATF agents that are now arriving,” said spokesman Adam Collins. “But the progress CPD has made this year has happened without any of the new resources from the federal government we requested.”
CNN’s Ryan Young, Eugene Scott and Mary Kay Mallonee contributed to this report.