Attorney General William P. Barr Announces the Creation of a Working Group on Prosecuting Gun Crimes to Stop and Reduce Domestic Violence
The U.S. Department of Justice has created a working group responsible for keeping guns out away from people convicted domestic violence crimes.
Attorney General William Barr made the announcement Tuesday, saying the agency will use the “the tools of federal prosecution to stop and prevent domestic violence.” Nine US Attorneys have been named to the committee.
“Too often, domestic abusers start with threats and abuse, and end up committing extreme violence and even homicide, with devastating impact on families and the community around them,” Barr said in a press release. “I have directed this working group to examine this issue and determine the best way to use federal gun prosecutions and other appropriate tools to supplement state, local and tribal efforts to address domestic violence.”
“With so many domestic disputes escalating from bruises to bullets, we felt we needed to supplement our state and local partners’ efforts to curb domestic violence with federal prosecutions,” said U.S. Attorney Nealy Cox, who is chair of the working group. “We hope our initial cases send a message to convicted abusers: Not only could the Justice Department theoretically prosecute abusers for firearm possession – they have and they will.”
Federal law has long barred convicted felons, as well as individuals subject to certain domestic violence protective orders or convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors, from possessing firearms. Gun restrictions for misdemeanor convictions and protective orders vary at the state level and by judicial discretion. In Georgia, legislation was proposed during the last legislative session to make restrictions more comprehensive at the state level. Specifically, authorities say local and state agencies are not able to enforce the federal version of the law.
The DOJ said in a press release:
Offenders with domestic violence in their past pose a remarkably high risk of homicide. Research shows that abusers with a gun in the home are five times more likely to kill their partners than abusers who don’t have that same access to a firearm. And according to one recent study, more than half of America’s mass shootings are cases of extreme domestic violence.*
However, federal gun cases involving domestic violence present unique challenges. In some states, the federal and state definitions of domestic violence differ, requiring complex legal analysis that varies based on the location of conviction.
(*A generally accepted definition of ‘mass shooting’ includes at least 4 victims)
The Working Group will share best practices, legal analysis and guidance on prosecuting abusers who unlawfully possess guns, and will advise U.S. Attorneys across the country on outreach to local law enforcement, judges, and nonprofit groups.
Working Group members include:
- Scott W. Brady, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania
- Robert M. Duncan, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky
- Nicola T. Hanna, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California
- Justin E. Herdman, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio
- Erin Nealy Cox, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas
- Christina E. Nolan, U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont
- Byung J. Pak, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia
- R. Trent Shores, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma
- Timothy J. Downing, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma