SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) – The Department of Justice announced it has charged more than 14,200 defendants crimes related to firearms during Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, despite the challenges of COVID 19 and its impact on the criminal justice process.
November 2019, 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.
According to a report written by the Department of Justice, these 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.”
Attorney Lawrence Kefe says the 14,200 cases charged include a number of significant cases presented throughout the Northern District of Florida.
“Combatting gun violence continues to be a priority throughout the Northern Florida District,” said U.S. Attorney Keefe. “It’s important to understand that we aren’t just focusing on those that pull the triggers. If you buy, sell or even possess a firearm illegally, we are coming after you, too.”
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 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."
“Protecting the public from violent crime involving firearms is at the core of ATF’s mission,” commented ATF Acting Director Regina Lombardo.
The Department says it 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.
According to the DOJ, 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.