Today, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that, following the memorandum from Attorney General Sessions to prioritize firearm prosecutions, the number of defendants charged with unlawful possession of a firearm increased nearly 23 percent in the second quarter of 2017 (2,637) from the same time period in 2016 (2,149).
“Violent crime is on the rise in many parts of this country, with 27 of our biggest 35 cities in the country coping with rising homicide rates,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “Law abiding people in some of these communities are living in fear, as they see families torn apart and young lives cut short by gangs and drug traffickers. Following President Trump’s Executive Order to focus on reducing crime, I directed federal prosecutors to prioritize taking illegal guns off of our streets, and as a result, we are now prosecuting hundreds more firearms defendants. In the first three months since the memo went into effect, charges of unlawful possession of a gun – mostly by previously convicted felons – are up by 23 percent. That sends a clear message to criminals all over this country that if you carry a gun illegally, you will be held accountable. I am grateful to the many federal prosecutors and agents who are working hard every day to make America safe again.”
In February, immediately after the swearing-in of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, President Trump signed an Executive Order that directs the Attorney General to seek to reduce crime and to set up the Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety. The Task Force has provided Sessions with recommendations on a rolling basis. In March, based on these recommendations, Attorney General Sessions sent a memorandum to Department of Justice prosecutors, ordering them to prioritize firearms offenses.
In the three months immediately following the Attorney General’s memo – April, May and June – the number of defendants charged with unlawful possession of a firearm (18 U.S.C. 922) increased by nearly 23 percent compared to those charged over the same time period in 2016. The number of defendants charged with the crime of using a firearm in a crime of violence or drug trafficking (18 U.S.C. 924), increased by 10 percent.
Based on data from the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA), in Fiscal Year 2016 (starting October 1), 11,656 defendants were charged with firearms offenses under 18 U.S.C. 922 or 924. EOUSA projects that in Fiscal Year 2017, the Department is on pace to charge 12,626 defendants with these firearms crimes. That would be the most federal firearms cases since 2005. It would also be an increase of eight percent from Fiscal Year 2016, 20 percent from 2015, and an increase of 23 percent from 2014.