CONTACT: Barbara Burns
PHONE: (716) 843-5817
FAX #: (716) 551-3051
BUFFALO, NY – 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, 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 a violent crime that destroys one of the most important bonds necessary to hold us together as a Nation—the family bond,” stated U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “When illegal guns end up in the hands of an individual with a history of domestic violence, the results are often deadly. Preventing abusers and criminals from getting guns remains a top priority for my Office, and we will continue to work relentlessly with our law enforcement partners at the local, state, and federal levels in that life-saving effort.”
Here, in the Western District of New York:
• Michael T. Blajszczak was charged and convicted of possession of a firearm by a person subject to a domestic violence order of protection, and sentenced to serve 12 months in prison. On April 27, 2019, a six-month domestic violence order of protection was issued in Cheektowaga, NY, Town Court against the defendant, who was an Erie County Sheriff’s Deputy at the time. As a result of that order, Blajszczak was prohibited from possessing any firearm during the time period for which it was in effect. On May 2, 2019, the defendant knowingly possessed a .22 caliber rifle and 11 rounds of ammunition.
• Charges remain pending against defendant Arthur Everett, who is accused of possessing firearms while subject to domestic violence protective order. According to an indictment against the defendant, on May 8, 2019, Everett, knowing he was subject to a restraining order issued by Erie County Court, knowingly possessed seven firearms, including five pistols, a revolver, and a semi-automatic handgun. The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
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); and
• 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.
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