NATIONAL NEWS

Justice Dept. Rolls Out New Program To Combat Gun Violence

Nov 14, 2019, 11:53 AM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 4:49 pm
AR-15 semi-automatic guns are on display for sale at Action Target in Springville, Utah. (Photo by ...
AR-15 semi-automatic guns are on display for sale at Action Target in Springville, Utah. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Attorney General William Barr announced a new initiative Wednesday that would better enforce the U.S. gun background check system, coordinate state and federal gun cases and ensure prosecutors quickly update databases to show when a defendant can’t possess a firearm because of mental health issues.

The push, known as Project Guardian, was unveiled at a news conference in Memphis, Tennessee, alongside officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, on the same day public impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump began in Washington.

As part of the program, U.S. prosecutors will coordinate with state and local law enforcement officials to consider potential federal charges when a suspect is arrested for weapons possession, is believed to have used a gun to commit a violent crime or drug-trafficking offense or is suspected of being a violent gang member.

“Gun crime remains a pervasive problem in too many communities across America,” Barr said in a statement.

The program “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,” Barr said.

During the news conference, Barr said discussions about any new legislation tied to the project have been sidetracked due to the impeachment process on Capitol Hill. He said Congress has been asked for more resources, including more ATF agents and U.S. marshals.

“We are going forward with all the operational steps that we can take that do not require legislative action,” Barr said.

The initiative requires agents in charge of ATF offices across the country to either 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. Prosecutors will particularly focus on offenders who have violent backgrounds, are gang members or who have faced domestic violence charges.

U.S. attorney’s offices would also be required to quickly input information about people who can’t own guns for mental health reason into federal databases. The attorney general is also encouraging U.S. attorneys across the country to adopt programs that could help disrupt potential threats and consider recommending court-ordered mental health treatment, in some cases, for defendants found to be ineligible to own firearms for mental health reasons.

The federal government has come under scrutiny in recent years for failing to prevent some mass shooters from buying guns because of lapses in the background check system. In 2018, there were more than 26 million background checks conducted and fewer than 100,000 people failed. The vast majority were for a criminal conviction and just over 6,000 were rejected for a mental health issue.

Federal law defines nine categories that would prohibit someone from being legally allowed to own or possess a firearm. They include being convicted of any felony charge or a misdemeanor domestic violence, being subject to a restraining order or active warrants, being dishonorably discharged from the military, being addicted to drugs, renouncing your U.S. citizenship or being in the country illegally or being involuntarily committed to a mental health institution or being found by a court to be “a mental defective.”

A man who killed nine black parishioners at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June 2015, was able to buy his gun even though he has admitted to possessing drugs and a gunman who killed 26 people at a church in Texas was able to pass a background check because the Air Force had failed to report his criminal history to the FBI, which maintains the background check database.

A gunman who went on a rampage in West Texas in September, killing seven people, illustrated that even those who are barred from owning guns can skirt the law. That gunman had obtained his AR-style rifle through a private sale, allowing him to evade a federal background check that blocked him from getting a gun in 2014 due to a “mental health issue,” a law enforcement official told The Associated Press at the time.

Barr said background checks would be enforced “with a vengeance.”

The new program will also help enhance ATF’s crime gun intelligence efforts, which the agency uses to identify and target criminals and identify where they get their guns.

Agents will work alongside prosecutors to “cut the pipeline of crime guns from those violent individuals who seek to terrorize our communities,” said Regina Lombardo, ATF’s acting deputy director.

Barr noted that Memphis has about five times the national average rate of violent crime. Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings said violent crime in the Mississippi River city is way too high.

___

Balsamo reported from Washington.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

[FILE] Jail Handcuffs (KSL-TV)...
Michael Houck

Utah man pleads guilty to child pornography charges in Virginia

A Cedar City man has pleaded guilty to child pornography charges after sending explicit videos to an undercover FBI agent in Virginia.
1 day ago
Kevin Johnson is shown at the Clayton Courthouse Tuesday, April 3, 2007, in Clayton, Mo....
Dakin Andone, CNN

Man who murdered police officer in 2005 has been executed in Missouri

Kevin Johnson -- a death row inmate who was convicted in the 2005 murder of a Kirkwood, Missouri, police officer but claimed racial bias in his prosecution -- was executed Tuesday night by lethal injection.
1 day ago
A tree is down on top of a trailer home....
Amir Vera, Jason Hanna, Melissa Alonso and Aya Elamroussi, CNN

At least 2 killed in Alabama as severe storms and tornadoes sweep across the South

Severe storms and tornadoes swept through parts of the South from Tuesday into Wednesday morning, killing at least two people in Alabama and damaging homes, other buildings and downing trees in several states, officials said.
1 day ago
A police officer making an announcement behind a podium for the San Francisco Police Department...
JANIE HAR Associated Press

San Francisco will allow police to deploy robots that kill

The Democratic San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to allow police to use potentially lethal, remote-controlled robots in emergency situations. The vote Tuesday was 8 to 3. Civil rights advocates opposed the proposal, saying it would lead to further militarization of police. The San Francisco Police Department said it would like the option to deploy robots equipped with explosive charges to disable suspects when lives are at stake. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is divided on support for law enforcement. A new state law requires police and sheriffs departments to inventory its military grade equipment and seek approval for their use.
1 day ago
NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 07:  Danny Masterson speaks during a Launch Event for Netflix "The Ranch: Part...
BRIAN MELLEY and ANDREW DALTON, Associated Press

Mistrial declared in actor Danny Masterson’s rape trial

A judge has declared a mistrial at the rape trial of “That ’70s Show” actor Danny Masterson.
1 day ago
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) (C) holds a news conference after he was elected leader of the 118th Co...
LISA MASCARO AP Congressional Correspondent

Jeffries wins historic bid to lead House Dems after Pelosi

House Democrats ushered in a new generation of leaders on Wednesday with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries elected to be the first Black American to head a major political party in Congress at a pivotal time as long-serving Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her team step aside next year.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Justice Dept. Rolls Out New Program To Combat Gun Violence