U.S. Attorney General launches new gun violence strategy: Project Guardian

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United States Attorney General William Barr, listens to LaToya Cantrell, New Orleans mayor, during the Grand Lodge Fraternal Order of Police’s 64th National Biennial Conference at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on Convention Blvd. in New Orleans, La. Monday, Aug. 12, 2019. Barr said Monday that there were “serious irregularities” at the federal jail where Jeffrey Epstein took his own life this weekend as he awaited trial on charges he sexually abused underage girls. (David Grunfeld/The Advocate via AP)

WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr announced the launch of a new initiative designed to reduce gun violence and enforce firearms laws nationwide. Project Guardian will focus on investigating, prosecuting, and preventing gun crimes.

In a press release, Barr stated his department has focused on reducing gun violence and enforcing federal firearms law. Project Guardian will draw on the Department’s earlier achievements, such as the “Triggerlock” program and Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN). The initiative will also focus on modern technology to to promote gun crime intelligence.

“Gun crime remains a pervasive problem in too many communities across America,” said Barr. “Building on the success of past programs like Triggerlock, 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.”

U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph said Project Guardian will help the Western District of Louisiana double-down on its efforts to keep firearms away from those prohibited from having them. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is also partnering with state and federal agencies for the project.

Project Guardian’s implementation is based on five principles:

·         Coordinated Prosecution. Federal prosecutors and law enforcement will coordinate with state, local, and tribal law enforcement to consider adding federal prosecution in certain gun violence cases.

·         Enforcing the Background Check System. U.S. Attorneys and the ATF will crack down on cases involving false statements during the firearm purchasing process. This includes methods like lie-and-try, lie-and-buy, and straw purchasers. The project will focus on fugitives and convicts of violent felonies and domestic violence crimes, as well as those involved in criminal organizations. It will also work to protect those subject to protective orders.

·         Improved Information Sharing. The ATF will provide state law enforcement officials regular updates on individuals who have previously failed background checks and why they failed.

·         Coordinated Response to Mental Health Denials. U.S. Attorneys will ensure that those who have been denied a purchase due to mental illness are kept in a national database. They will also work with the ATF and state and local law enforcement on how best to use that denial information. They also intend to work with various organizations to adopt “early engagement programs” to address mentally-ill purchasers who attempt to purchase a firearm. This might include court-ordered mental health treatment.

·         Crime Gun Intelligence Coordination. The program will make use of the ATF’s Crime Gun Intelligence Centers (CGICs) to maximize technological resources. If state and local agencies can share their ballistic and firearm recovery data with the ATF, these tools may help to quickly identify trigger-pullers, according to the press release.

Federal law enforcement represents only about 15% of all law enforcement resources nationwide. Cooperation among all agencies will be key to the programs success.  

For more information on Project Guardian, see the Attorney General’s memorandum here.

https://www.justice.gov/ag/project-guardian-memo-2019/download.

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