CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Today, the Department of Justice announced it has charged more than 500 domestic violence cases involving firearms during Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. A Department priority since 2019 when Attorney General William P. Barr created the Department of Justice’s first ever-Domestic Violence Working Group, 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 (ATF), led by Acting Director Regina Lombardo, who has made domestic violence firearms-related investigations a priority.
“Keeping firearms out of the hands of dangerous criminal offenders is one of the Department of Justice’s top priorities,” said Attorney General Barr. “This is especially important when it comes to individuals with prior domestic violence convictions. The statistics are clear that when domestic violence offenders have access to guns, their partners and their families are at much greater risk of falling victim to gun violence. In fact, in some communities across America, roughly half of the homicides are related to domestic violence. The Department of Justice is committed to keeping guns out of the hands of those who are prohibited from having them, and we will continue investigating and prosecuting all domestic violence firearms related crimes.”
“According to the CDC, data suggests that about one in six homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner,” said ATF Acting Director Lombardo. “Nearly half of female homicide victims in the U.S. are killed by a current or former male intimate partner. ATF is committed to aggressively pursuing prohibited possession of firearms due to domestic violence convictions and certain protective orders. It is another way we prevent violent gun crime within our communities.”
“Domestic violence is both prolific and diabolical. It has devastated far too many West Virginia families,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart. “We know that when a domestic abuser has a gun, the consequences are often tragic. In partnership with ATF, my office works closely with state and local law enforcement to prevent domestic violence through federal prosecutions. We owe it to the victims of domestic violence to use every resource available to keep guns out of abusers’ hands.”
“Domestic violence affects women, men, and families across West Virginia each year – and when coupled with a firearm, this abuse far too often becomes a violent crime,” stated Special Agent in Charge R. Shawn Morrow of ATF’s Louisville Field Division. “ATF is committed to keeping firearms out of the hands of abusers through the enforcement of federal firearms laws and the successful prosecutions of these offenders. Our partnership with United States Attorney Mike Stuart is helping to keep West Virginia families safe.”
Under federal law, individuals with domestic violence misdemeanor and felony convictions, as well as individuals subject to domestic violence protective orders, are prohibited from possessing firearms. The data shows that offenders with domestic violence in their past pose a high risk of homicide. In fact, domestic violence abusers with a gun in the home are five times more likely to kill their partners.
The Working Group, chaired by U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox, of the Northern District of Texas, disseminates legal guidance on keeping guns out of the hands of domestic violence abusers using three federal statutes:
- 18 USC § 922 (g)(1), felon in possession of a firearm
- 18 USC § 922 (g)(9), possession of a firearm by a prohibited person (misdemeanor crime of domestic violence)
- 18 USC § 922 (g)(8), possession of a firearm while subject to a domestic violence protective order
Based on the Working Group’s guidance, in FY 2020, U.S. Attorneys’ Offices nationwide brought 337 domestic violence felon-in-possession charges, 54 possession while subject to a protective order charges, and 142 possession by a prohibited person charges.
For more information on domestic violence or to get help, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website or call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice. Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia.
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