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Firearms-related charges on the rise

Numbers top 14K for fiscal year

The Department of Justice announced it has charged more than 14,200 defendants with firearms-related crimes this year, despite the challenges of COVID -19 and its impact on the criminal justice process.

These cases have been a Department priority since November 2019 when Attorney General William P. Barr announced his commitment to investigating, prosecuting and combating gun crimes as a critical part of the Department’s anti-violent crime strategy.

These firearms-related charges result from the critical law enforcement partnership between the nation’s Offices of Attorneys General and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, led by Acting Director Regina Lombardo, who has made firearms-related investigations a priority.

“The number one priority of government is to keep its citizens safe,” said Barr. “By preventing firearms from falling into the hands of individuals who are prohibited from having them, we can stop violent crime before it happens. Violating federal firearms laws is a serious crime and offenders face serious consequences.

“The Department of Justice is committed to investigating and prosecuting those who illegally buy, sell, use or possess firearms. Reducing gun violence requires a coordinated effort, and we could not have charged more than 14,000 individuals with firearms-related crimes without the hard work of the dedicated law enforcement professionals at the ATF, our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country, and especially all of our state and local law enforcement partners.”

Lombardo says that protecting the public from violent firearms crimes is at the core of the ATF mission.

“Every day the men and women of ATF pursue and investigate those who use firearms to commit violent crimes in our communities, many of whom are prohibited from possessing firearms from previous convictions. ATF, in collaboration with the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the nation, is committed to bringing these offenders to justice for their egregious and violent criminal acts.”

U.S. attorney J. Douglas Overbey says he agrees.

“Gun violence is a top priority for the Department and here in the Eastern District of Tennessee. Our office values the hard work of our partners, and we are proud of our work in protecting the public from violent crime involving firearms. Our office will vigorously pursue and prosecute those who use firearms to commit violent crimes within our communities,” said Overbey.

Under federal law, it is illegal to possess a firearm for those who fall into one or more of nine prohibited categories. For instance, if you are a felon, an illegal alien or someone who has unlawfully used controlled substance, you are prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm. It is also illegal to possess a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense or violent crime. It is unlawful to purchase – or even to attempt to illegally purchase – firearms if the buyer is a prohibited person or illegally purchasing a firearm on behalf of others.

Lying on ATF Form 4473, which is used to legally purchase a firearm, is a federal offense.

The Department is committed to prosecuting these firearms offenses. All available modern technologies are used by law enforcement. The National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, known as NIBIN, is one such technology that promotes gun crime intelligence.

Overbey says that keeping illegal firearms out of the hands of violent criminals will continue to be his top priority.

We will use all appropriate, available means to keep the law-abiding people of this country safe from gun crimes, he said.