(STL.News) – The U.S. Attorney’s Office has charged 55 federal gun possession cases in Baltimore and 31 in Greenbelt so far during the 2020 calendar year, and the office continues to investigate and charge defendants who illegally possess and use firearms. These gun possession cases are just one component of the District’s larger Project Safe Neighborhoods Program, which specifically targets violent crime by combining local, state, and federal law enforcement efforts; community action and revitalization; and public awareness. The use of federal resources and statutes, which carry significant terms of imprisonment—in federal prisons far from Maryland, with no suspended sentences, and no parole—is especially helpful in prosecuting repeat violent offenders, who pose the greatest threat to public safety.
The announcement was made by United States Attorney Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge Timothy Jones of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives – Baltimore Field Division; Commissioner Michael Harrison of the Baltimore Police Department; State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby of the State’s Attorney’s Office for Baltimore City; and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh.
“Reducing violent crime in Maryland is job one. We are proud of the work we have done to date, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. In Baltimore, our relentless focus on reducing the gun crime that plagues the City has resulted in more federal gun possession cases charged to date this year than during the entirety of last year,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur. “We and our partners will continue together to focus on prosecuting the repeat violent offenders who wreak havoc in and terrorize our communities.”
“The application of federal charges against individuals who illegally possess or use firearms to commit a crime has been a game changer in our efforts to reduce gun violence and successfully prosecute criminal offenders throughout Maryland,” said ATF Baltimore Field Division Special Agent in Charge Timothy Jones. “The ATF Baltimore Field Division and our partners will continue to aggressively pursue those who criminally possess or use a firearm in the commission of a crime, and we are grateful to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their continued commitment to ensuring that these unlawful offenders answer for their crimes.”
The United States Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners are continuing our efforts to address gun violence by using federal statutes prohibiting felons from possessing firearms. These types of reactive gun cases are one part of Maryland’s Project Safe Neighborhoods (“PSN”), our violent-crime reduction strategy. The United States Attorney’s Office, through the use of Project Safe Neighborhoods, will continue to pursue felons with guns who constitute a clear and present danger to the safety and welfare of the citizens of Maryland.
One of the reasons for the success of the program in Baltimore is the use of Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys (SAUSAs) provided by the Maryland Attorney General’s Office and the Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City and funded through grants from the Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth & Victim Services. These SAUSAs, who almost exclusively handle federal gun and violent crime cases, are force multipliers in the fight against violent crime.
The Department of Justice announced on October 13, 2020, that it has charged more than 14,200 defendants with firearms-related crimes nationwide during Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, 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 combatting gun crimes as a critical part of the Department’s anti-violent crime strategy. These firearms-related charges are the result of the critical law enforcement partnership between United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and 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 Attorney General 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 individuals, 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.”
“Protecting the public from violent crime involving firearms is at the core of ATF’s mission,” commented ATF Acting Director Regina Lombardo. “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.”
Under federal law, it is illegal to possess a firearm if you fall into one of nine prohibited categories including being a felon, illegal alien, or unlawful user of a controlled substance. Further, it is unlawful to possess a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense or violent crime. It is also illegal 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 lawfully purchase a firearm, is also a federal offense. The Department is committed to prosecuting these firearms offenses as well as using all modern technologies available to law enforcement such as the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, known as NIBIN, to promote gun crime intelligence. Keeping illegal firearms out of the hands of violent criminals will continue to be a priority of the Department of Justice and we will use all appropriate, available means to keep the law-abiding people of this country safe from gun crime.