Administration

Biden DOJ to continue Trump policy of charging some DC gun cases in federal court

Greg Nash

The new top federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., will abide by a Trump-era policy that charges some gun crimes in federal rather than local court, despite concerns from city leaders and justice reform advocates that the policy results in harsher prison sentences.

The Washington Post reports that acting U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips is planning to stand by the policy, which applies to people with violent criminal records who are caught with firearms, though Phillips has said in court filings that his office will “review and monitor” the policy’s impact and possibly consider modifications.

The Post notes Phillips’s decision surprised advocates, who had expected President Biden’s Department of Justice (DOJ) to turn away from the Trump policy that had targeted predominantly Black areas of D.C.

D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) has spoken out against the policy, arguing it worsens the problems of mass incarceration and policing in Black communities.

“Local autonomy in the District, at its most basic level, means that local offenses should be prosecuted under District law and in our local court,” Racine said in a statement to the Post.

However the Post reports that Phillips appears to be optimistic that Racine would be persuaded to be in favor of the policy, saying his office will “look forward to having the opportunity to persuade him of our position.”

The policy also has the support of acting D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Robert J. Contee III, the Post notes.

Phillips is serving in his position until a new U.S. attorney is confirmed. He has previously served in the position in 2009 and again in 2015 to 2017 under former President Obama.

Tags District of Columbia gun laws Joe Biden U.S. attorney United States federal courts

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