In a statement on Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced what the Department of Justice is planning to do to support President Trump’s efforts to reduce gun violence and secure our nation’s schools. The DOJ’s plans involve improving school safety, aggressively prosecuting those who break gun laws, supporting law enforcement, ensuring the necessary information is in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), acting on tips, and providing “technical assistance” to states.
In his announcement, AG Sessions stated:
No child should have to fear going to school or walking the streets of their neighborhood. Today, I am directing the Department of Justice to take a number of new steps that will help make schools and the American people safer from the threat of gun violence.
We are increasing the number of school resource officers, improving background checks and more aggressively prosecuting those who illegally attempt to purchase a firearm, and reviewing and enhancing the way our law enforcement agencies respond to tips from the public. Under my tenure as Attorney General, we have already increased federal gun prosecutions to a 10-year high—and we are just getting started. With these new measures in place, we are better positioned to disarm criminals and protect the law-abiding people of this country.
Now that’s a lot, but what does each part of the plan entail?
Improving School Safety
To improve school safety, the DOJ will look to hire more School Resource Officers (SROs) through the COPS Hiring program. The program is, “a competitive grant that helps states and local communities hire more police officers.” The DOJ will also utilize existing programs to “empower state and local firearms and situational awareness training for school personnel.”
Prosecuting Those Who Break Gun Laws
The DOJ reiterated its support for President Trump’s decision to ban bump stocks. The department will be sending a proposal to the Office of Management and Budget that will classify bump stock-type devices as machine guns. It will no longer be legal to manufacture, sell, or have bump stock’s in one’s possession. As a result, existing bump stocks will not be “grandfathered in” by the new policy.
Additionally, the DOJ will look to carry out “swift and aggressive ‘Lie-and-Try’ Prosecutions.” “Lie-and-Try” Prosecutions are when a person prohibited from purchasing a firearm lies about their eligibility in an attempt to get around the background check system. The Attorney General also plans to increase the number of “violent crime” prosecutions.
Supporting Law Enforcement
In the details put out by the DOJ, “support law enforcement” does not refer to law enforcement as a whole. This part of the plan relates to officers in Parkland, Florida who are still investigating the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The DOJ will be providing the state of Florida with $1 million “emergency grant funding” which will be passed on to Broward County. The grant is “intended to defray the law enforcement overtime costs related to the response and subsequent crime scene investigation of the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.”
Federal agencies will be required to show, within 45 days, that they are in compliance with sending the proper records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System or that they have a plan to become compliant. After the shooting in Sutherland Springs, TX, it was revealed that the nation’s background check system had holes in it because information that would prevent prohibited individuals from passing a background check and obtaining a firearm wasn’t being properly reported.
Strengthening NICS will also involve targetting mental health. The DOJ explains, “through the National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP) and NICS Act Records Improvement Program (NARIP) grants, the Department will help states provide more complete, timely, and accurate information to databases accessed by the firearms background check system.”
Acting on Tips
The Parkland shooting showed just how badly local law enforcement, the school, and the FBI dropped the ball after receiving tips that the school shooter was a threat to himself and others. To ensure law enforcement will act on this type of information in the future, the DOJ will have “an immediate review of the Department’s handling of tips from the public so that they receive prompt and effective responses, especially when doing so could prevent violence.”
Providing “Technical Assistance”
When the DOJ refers to “technical assistance” in this case, it is addressing Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs). Surprisingly, the DOJ says it intends to do everything within its power to help states that want to implement extreme risk protection orders. ERPOs remain controversial to many. Here at Bearing Arms, Erika and Tom have covered ERPOs and GVROs extensively, stating that depending on how officials write the law, citizens can lose their Second Amendment right without due process. Furthermore, these orders don’t address the root causes of gun violence.
While the DOJ is looking to help states implement ERPOs, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have introduced GVRO legislation at the federal level.
Many of these steps by the DOJ are in the right direction and stay clear of gun control. However, the banning of bump stocks and showing the willingness to back all ERPOs is going to turn some heads and get pushback from gun owners and Second Amendment proponents.