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.”
Of the more than 500 cases charged in FY2020, eight domestic violence-related firearms cases have been brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Oklahoma, one resulting in the death of the victim, announced U.S. Attorney Trent Shores, member of the Attorney General’s Domestic Violence Working group.
In August and September, the U.S. Attorney’s Office also charged 10 additional defendants in domestic violence cases not involving firearms, some resulting in homicide. Charges include assault with a dangerous weapon, assault resulting in serious bodily injury, assault by strangling or suffocating, kidnapping and more.
“Domestic violence prosecutions are akin to homicide prevention. We owe it to victims of domestic violence to dedicate all available resources to stop habitual offenders and break the cycle of violence. Firearms are used in more than half of all intimate partner homicides in the United States, and that’s one area where my office can focus our prosecutions,” said U.S. Attorney Trent Shores. “Bottom line, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is focused on keeping guns out of the hands of perpetrators with domestic violence convictions. We do this by prosecuting these abusers when they possess a firearm or ammunition, thus taking them out of the home so victims can feel safe and seek essential services to help them move forward.”
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).