Attorney General Sessions Announces New Actions To Improve School Safety And Better Enforce Existing Gun Laws
Today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced several steps in support of President Trump’s plan to prevent violence in schools. Through these efforts, the Department of Justice is taking immediate action to protect our schools, better enforce our gun laws, support law enforcement, strengthen the firearms background check system, and improve federal law enforcement’s response to tips. In making the announcement, Attorney General Sessions said:
"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."
The Attorney General announced the following actions:
Improvements to School Safety
- Hire More School Resource Officers. The Department will help state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies hire more School Resource Officers (SROs). The COPS Hiring Program—a competitive grant that helps states and local communities hire more police officers—will prioritize applicants who intend to use the grants for SROs.
- Provide Support For Firearms and Situational Awareness Training to School and Law Enforcement Personnel. By leveraging existing assistance programs, the Department will be able to empower state and local firearms and situational awareness training for school personnel. The Department will continue to provide emergency and crisis training to state, local, and tribal law enforcement through its National Training and Technical Assistance Center and VALOR initiative.
- Fully Participate in the Federal Commission on School Safety. The Department of Justice is committed to working with our federal partners to study, evaluate, and make recommendations on how we can improve school safety.
Aggressively Prosecuting Federal Gun Laws
- Bump Stocks. The Department of Justice is supporting President Trump’s absolute commitment to ensuring the safety and security of every American by submitting to the Office of Management and Budget a proposed regulation to clarify that bump stock type devices are machine guns under federal law, which will effectively ban the manufacture, sale or possession of these devices.
- Swift and aggressive “Lie-and-Try” Prosecutions. Attorney General Sessions has ordered federal prosecutors to swiftly and aggressively prosecute appropriate cases against people who are prohibited from having firearms, and who lie in an attempt to thwart the federal background check system.
- Continue to Increase Violent Crime Prosecutions. In 2017 the Department made some great strides under Attorney General Sessions' leadership, including the launch of the enhanced Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative, which brings together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to develop effective, locally based strategies to reduce violent crime. Under this direction, the Department prosecuted more defendants on federal firearms charges than we have in a decade, and more defendants for violent crime than we have in over 25 years – since the Department started tracking a “violent crime” category. Attorney General Sessions is dedicated to ensuring even more violent crime prosecutions, including firearms prosecutions, in 2018.
Supporting Law Enforcement
- Providing Emergency Funding for the Costs of Parkland, Florida Law Enforcement Response. The Department of Justice will provide $1 million in emergency grant funding to the State of Florida to pass through to Broward County and other responding jurisdictions’ law enforcement components. The emergency funding 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.
Improving Information Available for Firearm Background Checks
- Holding Federal Agencies Accountable. Federal agencies are required by law to report to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) relevant records relating to individuals prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law. Pursuant to his authority, Attorney General Sessions is calling on all relevant agencies to certify within 45 days that they are in full compliance with the law or have a plan to become fully compliant.
- Strengthening Partnerships with State and Local Law Enforcement. The Attorney General is calling on governors and state Attorneys General to improve the reporting of state and local criminal justice data, and other information accessed by the firearms background check system. Because the FBI has identified “missing dispositions” – or arrest records that lack a final disposition – as a significant issue, the Attorney General will provide every state with their respective level of disposition completion with the goal of urging those states who do not have an adequate level of reporting to focus on this issue and improve their reporting.
- Attorney General Sessions has also directed the FBI to identify local jurisdictions that are not reporting arrests to their state repositories as well as jurisdictions that are not providing all of their records identifying persons prohibited from possessing firearms for mental health reasons.
- Improving Access to State Mental Health and Domestic Violence Records. 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. The Attorney General has ordered that priority be given to projects that improve accessibility of criminal history records, domestic violence convictions, and information on persons who are prohibited from possessing firearms for mental-health related reasons.
Enhancements to Department Response to Public Information
- Reviewing and reforming the process for handling tips. Attorney General Sessions has ordered 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.
Technical Assistance to States
- Extreme Risk Protection Orders. The Department stands ready to assist States, at their request, on establishing and implementing extreme risk protection orders.
Click here to view the Attorney General’s memo to the Director of the FBI on Improving State Information sharing.
Click here to view the Attorney General’s memo to US Attorneys on Enforcing Federal Law Against Prohibited Persons Attempting to Purchase Firearms.
Click here to view the Executive Summary of the report provided to the Attorney General in response to his November 22, 2017 Directive to Review NICS.