This week, the Department of Justice announced it has charged more than 14,200 defendants with firearms-related crimes 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 Attorney’s 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. Attorney’s 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. Attorney’s Offices across the nation, is committed to bringing these offenders to justice for their egregious and violent criminal acts.”
Of the more than 14,200 cases charged nationwide, 72 firearms cases have been filed in the Middle District of Louisiana during the same period, announced United States Attorney Brandon Fremin. The majority of these cases have involved convicted felons who illegally possessed firearms. However, the district has also addressed, among other gun crimes, false statements to licensed firearms dealers and domestic violence offenders who themselves cannot legally possess firearms. The 72 local case total also reflects matters where firearms were possessed, carried, or used in connection with federal violent crime or narcotics trafficking offenses. Even with COVID 19 challenges, United States Attorney Fremin noted, the Middle District of Louisiana continues to obtain successful results against dangerous firearms offenders. Recently a federal trial jury convicted Robert Earl Tucker, Jr., age 45, of various gun charges, to include brandishing a loaded firearm at a Wal-Mart in Baton Rouge and illegally possessing a firearm and ammunition. Tucker now faces a maximum sentence of ten years in federal prison.
United States Attorney Fremin stated: “Our office has made protecting the community from violent crime a top priority in the Middle District of Louisiana. We have successfully used some of the best tools available to law enforcement to keep firearms out of the hands of those who pose a danger to the innocent, and to prosecute and convict prohibited persons from possessing or using firearms to bring violence. We are joined in this by the various federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies who are the front line defenders of the public, and without their tireless efforts, our success would not be possible.”
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.
For more information on the lawful purchasing of firearms, please see: https://www.atf.gov/qa-category/atf-form-4473.