Former US Attorneys Demand Fewer Federal Prosecutions For Gun Offenses

AP Photo/Don Thompson

The utter incoherence and incompatibility of the Democrats’ desire for new gun control laws and a “reimagined” criminal justice system is on full display with a new letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and the U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C. penned by dozens of former federal prosecutors who are demanding that the Department of Justice back off from prosecuting many gun-related cases, including felons caught in illegal possession of a gun in our nation’s capitol.

The former prosecutors argue that moving these cases to federal court disproportionately harms minorities in Washington, D.C. by imposing lengthier sentences for their crimes than what they’d receive if their cases were handled by local prosecutors instead.

In a letter this week, 87 former prosecutors say the initiative is at odds with the Biden administration’s concerns about mass incarceration and interest in overhauling the criminal justice system.

“We share the administration’s desire to combat gun violence in the District and across the country. But we also know that excessive terms of incarceration are the wrong way to achieve that goal,” according to the letter, organized by former D.C. federal prosecutors Jami Hodge, Akhi Johnson, Bianca M. Forde and Nicole Battle.

Harsh sentences, they say, exacerbate “mass incarceration without increasing public safety and it continues to disproportionately impact Black men.”

Let’s assume these prosecutors are right for a moment. If that’s the case, then it’s not just the length of the sentence that exacerbates mass incarceration without increasing public safety. Each and every new federal gun control law that carves a non-violent offense out of the right to keep and bear arms does the exact same thing. Yet the Biden administration and Democrats more generally continue to pursue a strategy at odds with itself; demanding new laws be put on the books while railing against the injustice inherent in enforcing those very same punitive policies.

In fact, the Biden administration is defending the policy of moving felon-in-possession cases to federal court whenever possible, even if the original felony conviction was for a non-violent offense. That’s what happened to 63-year old John Victor Reed, who was busted in 2019 with a gun that had previously been reported stolen. Reed and his attorneys were in federal court on Wednesday, arguing before Judge Emmett Sullivan that Reed was the victim of an unfair policy, and that his case should be moved to the local courts.

Sullivan said that he was sympathetic to the argument as a lifelong D.C. resident but that the court is constrained by past Supreme Court decisions that caution judges against second guessing prosecutorial decisions.

“If I could rule from my heart, you would win in a heartbeat, but I can’t rule from my heart,” Sullivan said. He noted that because D.C. is not a state, city officials do not have exclusive authority when it comes to prosecuting crimes in the city.

Sullivan said he would rule soon on Reed’s request to dismiss the case.

Before the hearing, the Justice Department tried unsuccessfully to make a deal with Reed to end the case.

Reed rejected the government’s offer to charge him under D.C. — not federal — law, in exchange for pleading guilty.

Sullivan alluded to the underlying issue of reducing gun violence in D.C. and mentioned the shooting Tuesday night of a young child and his mother near the Shaw and Logan Circle areas of the city.

He asked: “Why can’t the federal government and D.C. government team up and more forcefully work together in an effort to get the guns off the street?”

Why? Because the Left wants to have it both ways; more gun control laws, less prosecution. It would be easy to adopt a strategy of focusing on the most violent offenders in Washington, D.C. and bringing their cases to federal court, but if the DOJ were to do that, it would negate the argument that we also need new, non-violent, possessory federal offenses in place like a ban on magazines that can accept more than ten rounds of ammunition or prohibitions on owning modern sporting rifles.

The Left is at odds with itself on gun control and criminal justice reform, and its becoming clearer by the day that they’re unwilling or unable to reckon with the problem that they themselves have created.