Here are the Details of DOJ’s New Plan to Enforce Gun Laws and Target Criminals

Posted: Nov 14, 2019 3:30 PM
Here are the Details of DOJ’s New Plan to Enforce Gun Laws and Target Criminals

Source: AP Photo/Philip Kamrass, File

Attorney General Bill Barr announced a new initiative from Memphis this week and laid out details about how federal law enforcement plans to target criminals by enforcing gun laws already on the books.

"I am here to announce a new federal initiative to combat violent crime and gun violence called Project Guardian. I have long believed that the first duty of government is to protect the safety of our citizens. When I was last Attorney General in 1991, the country had experienced an explosion of violent crime. Crime rates had tripled over the previous decades. Violent crime was at its peak," Barr said from downtown Memphis Wednesday. "At that time, the federal government dramatically increased its focus on combatting violent crime. We launched a series of initiatives focused on drug organizations, gangs, and gun offenders. We also expanded our close collaboration and joint operations with our state and local partners."

"A key initiative that was launched was Project Triggerlock, which targeted for federal prosecution violent felons who illegally possessed guns. It used our very strong federal gun laws to put those people away for a long period of time, a resolution that we couldn’t get from many of the state systems. Working cooperatively with district attorneys’ offices and the police in various cities, we were able to have these cases referred to us in able to use our strong federal laws to address them," he continued. "When I left office, we were charging approximately 1,000 offenders a month for gun violations. Over the next 25 years, violent crime was cut in half. Unfortunately, during the last two years of the Obama Administration, it started increasing again. But this Administration put a stop to that and reversed that trend."

Barr said the program will be implemented across the country and in every federal district. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which is overseen by the DOJ, will play a crucial role.

“ATF has a long history of strong partnerships in the law enforcement community,” Acting ATF Director Regina Lombardo said. “Make no mistake, the women and men of ATF remain steadfast to our core mission of getting crime guns off of our streets. ATF and U.S. Attorneys nationwide will leverage these partnerships even further through enhanced community outreach initiatives and coordination with local, state, and tribal law enforcement and prosecutors to cut the pipeline of crime guns from those violent individuals who seek to terrorize our communities. Project Guardian will enhance ATF’s Crime Gun Intelligence, to include identifying, investigating and prosecuting those involved in the straw purchases of firearms, lying on federal firearms transaction forms, and those subject to the mental health prohibition of possessing firearms.” 

Here are the five pillars of the program, courtesy of the DOJ:

-Coordinated Prosecution: Federal prosecutors and law enforcement will coordinate with state, local, and tribal law enforcement and prosecutors to consider potential federal prosecution for new cases involving a defendant who: a) was arrested in possession of a firearm; b) is believed to have used a firearm in committing a crime of violence or drug trafficking crime prosecutable in federal court; or c) is suspected of actively committing violent crime(s) in the community on behalf of a criminal organization.

-Enforcing the Background Check System: United States Attorneys, in consultation with the Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in their district, will create new, or review existing, guidelines for intake and prosecution of federal cases involving false statements (including lie-and-try, lie-and-buy, and straw purchasers) made during the acquisition or attempted acquisition of firearms from Federal Firearms Licensees. Particular emphasis is placed on individuals convicted of violent felonies or misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence, individuals subject to protective orders, and individuals who are fugitives where the underlying offense is a felony or misdemeanor crime of domestic violence; individuals suspected of involvement in criminal organizations or of providing firearms to criminal organizations; and individuals involved in repeat denials.

-Improved Information Sharing: On a regular basis, and as often as practicable given current technical limitations, ATF will provide to state law enforcement fusion centers a report listing individuals for whom the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has issued denials, including the basis for the denial, so that state and local law enforcement can take appropriate steps under their laws.

-Coordinated Response to Mental Health Denials: Each United States Attorney will ensure that whenever there is federal case information regarding individuals who are prohibited from possessing a firearm under the mental health prohibition, such information continues to be entered timely and accurately into the United States Attorneys’ Offices’ case-management system for prompt submission to NICS. ATF should engage in additional outreach to state and local law enforcement on how to use this denial information to better assure public safety. Additionally, United States Attorneys will consult with relevant district stakeholders to assess feasibility of adopting disruption of early engagement programs to address mental-health-prohibited individuals who attempt to acquire a firearm. United States Attorneys should consider, when appropriate, recommending court-ordered mental health treatment for any sentences issued to individuals prohibited based on mental health.

-Crime Gun Intelligence Coordination: Federal, state, local, and tribal prosecutors and law enforcement will work together to ensure effective use of the ATF’s Crime Gun Intelligence Centers (CGICs), and all related resources, to maximize the use of modern intelligence tools and technology. These tools can greatly enhance the speed and effectiveness in identifying trigger-pullers and finding their guns, but the success depends in large part on state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners sharing ballistic evidence and firearm recovery data with the ATF. Federal law enforcement represents only about 15 percent of all law enforcement resources nationwide. Therefore, partnerships with state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the communities they serve are critical to addressing gun crime. The Department recognizes that sharing information with our state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners at every level will enhance public safety, and provide a greater depth of resources available to address gun crime on a national level.  

While Democrats call for gun confiscation from law-abiding Americans, the Trump administration is going after criminals who regularly break the law to carry out violent crimes.