DOJ unveils program aimed at reducing gun violence

DOJ unveils program aimed at reducing gun violence
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The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday unveiled a program that aims to reduce gun violence including through the creation of guidelines to prosecute those who make false statements while trying to get a gun.

The five-point plan includes coordinated prosecution, enforcing the background check system, improved information sharing, a coordinated response for mental health denials, and crime gun intelligence coordination, according to a DOJ statement. 

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The department seeks to coordinate prosecution under the "Project Guardian" program by considering federal prosecution for those who were arrested for possessing a firearm, are believed to have used a firearm while committing violence or drug trafficking, or who is suspected of actively committing violent crimes in connection with a criminal organization. 

To enforce background checks, attorneys general, in connection with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) will create or renew guidelines for prosecuting those who make false statements while trying to get a firearm. Those who have been convicted of violent felonies and domestic violence misdemeanors, among others, will be given special emphasis. 

The plan would also give information on those who have been issued denials under the national background check system to state and local law enforcement, update information into the background check system when there is new or additional information about those who are prohibited from owning firearms because of their mental health status, and encourage using tools to identify trigger pullers. 

Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrDemocrats rip Barr over IG statement: 'Mouthpiece' for Trump Comey in op-ed after IG report: 'Barr needs to stop acting like a Trump spokesperson' Graham: FBI investigation in 2016 turned into a 'criminal conspiracy' MORE said in a statement that the plan shows the DOJ's commitment to reducing gun violence. 

"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,” he said. 

He also said during a press conference in Memphis, Tenn., that the program would be applied with exceptional "vigor" in areas with high levels of gun violence. 

"We're going to apply it with special vigor where gun violence is the highest, in places like Memphis," he said. 

Barr's announcement came on the same day that two witnesses were testifying publicly as part of the House's impeachment inquiry into President TrumpDonald John TrumpLawmakers release defense bill with parental leave-for-Space-Force deal House Democrats expected to unveil articles of impeachment Tuesday Houston police chief excoriates McConnell, Cornyn and Cruz on gun violence MORE

The attorney general said Wednesday that the administration came up with a series of related legislative proposals, but added they could not move forward due to the probe into the president's dealings with Ukraine.  

“Unfortunately, our discussions on the legislative aspects of this have been sidetracked because of the impeachment process on the Hill and so we are going forward with all of the operational steps,” Barr said. 

“We certainly are always willing to pursue legislative measures that will enhance the fight against violent crime but right now it does not appear to things in Washington are amenable to those kinds of negotiations and compromises,” he added.

Gun violence prevention group March for Our Lives, which was founded after a mass shooting at a school in Parkland, Fla., criticized the program as a "racialized" tough-on-crime plan.

"We’ve seen racialized ‘tough on crime’ plans before. It doesn’t work," the group tweeted. "We ought to be tough on injustice, economic oppression and inequality. Our country has a gun violence problem. It’s sources vary, but the common factor is easy access to guns."

Everytown for Gun Safety President John Feinblatt in a statement called the plan a "mixed bag" and also a "small bag."

"Overall it fails to meet the moment and ignores the public’s call for broadly popular measures like background checks on all gun sales and strong red flag legislation,” Feinblatt said. “The bottom line is this: Come 2020, the public won’t forget that the president and his Senate allies have chosen the side of the gun lobby over the American public.”

The National Rifle Association, meanwhile, praised the program. 

"While the Obama Administration chose to ignore criminal behavior in favor of attacking the rights of law-abiding gun owners, the Trump Administration is concentrating on the enforcement of existing laws," spokesman Lars Dalseide said in a statement. 

The plan's release follows a series of shootings in recent months. The incidents, including an August shooting in Texas that left 22 people dead, brought renewed scrutiny to U.S. gun policies.

Updated at 6:16 p.m.