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DOJ Rolls Out Plan to Reduce Gun Violence

U.S. Attorney General William Barr released a new plan to reduce gun violence and enforce existing federal firearms laws across the country.

“Gun crime remains a pervasive problem in too many communities across America,” Barr said on Wednesday. “Today, the Department of Justice is redoubling its commitment to tackling this issue through the launch of Project Guardian. Building on the success of past programs like Triggerlock, Project Guardian will strengthen our efforts to reduce gun violence by allowing the federal government and our state and local partners to better target offenders who use guns in crimes and those who try to buy guns illegally.”

Project Guardian is based on five principles: coordinated prosecution, enforcing the background check system, improved information sharing, coordinated response to mental health denials, and crime gun intelligence coordination.

“Project Guardian is designed to ensure that each United States Attorney’s Office develops and maintains a robust and effective gun crime prosecution strategy, in conjunction with ongoing Project Safe Neighborhoods efforts to reduce violent crime,” according to a U.S. Department of Justice memo. “Project Guardian will accomplish this goal through enhanced and strategic investigation and prosecution of individuals and organizations involved in the illegal acquisition or attempted acquisition, possession, use, and trafficking of firearms.”

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) will be heavily involved in implementing Project Guardian.

“The initiative requires agents in charge of ATF offices across the country either to create new guidelines or review the protocols already in place to bring federal charges against people who lie in order to obtain a gun from a firearms dealer,” according to The Los Angeles Times. “Prosecutors will particularly focus on offenders who have violent backgrounds, are gang members, or who have faced domestic violence charges.”

The U.S. federal government has been under pressure during the last several years to ensure that it is enforcing existing firearms laws after mass shooters were able to obtain firearms because of errors in the background check system.

For instance, the gunman who carried out the shooting in 2015 at Mother Emanuel AME Church was able to acquire a handgun despite being arrested on drug charges just weeks before the incident.

“Although that arrest should have prevented him from purchasing the pistol he used in the attack, the FBI examiner reviewing the sale never saw the arrest report because the wrong agency was listed in state criminal history records,” ABC News reported. “After being told she had the wrong agency to review the arrest record and being directed to a different police department, she didn’t follow through. After a three-day waiting period, Roof went back to a West Columbia store and picked up the handgun.”

Another mass shooter—the gunman responsible for the 2017 shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas—was also able to purchase a firearm because the U.S. Air Force failed to inform the FBI that he had been court-martialed and discharged for assaulting his wife and her child, which would have prohibited him from purchasing a firearm.

“The Air Force acknowledged that in addition to failing to submit the information in the FBI database for Kelley, it found several dozen other such reporting omissions,” according to the Associated Press. “The Air Force has blamed gaps in ‘training and compliance measures’ for the lapses and said it made changes to prevent failures in the future.”