U.S. Attorney’s Office Announces Participation in Project Guardian, a Nationwide Strategic Plan to Reduce Gun Violence
CHICAGO — John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, today announced that the office will participate in Project Guardian, a new initiative from the Department of Justice designed to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearm laws. Project Guardian is designed to serve as a complementary effort to the success of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN).
The Department reviewed and adapted some of the successes of past strategies, such as the “Triggerlock” program, to develop a new and robust effort to promote and ensure public safety. Project Guardian focuses specifically on investigating, prosecuting, and preventing gun crimes, and it emphasizes the importance of using all modern technologies available to law enforcement to promote gun crime intelligence.
“Reducing gun violence and enforcing federal gun laws have always been among our office’s highest priorities,” said U.S. Attorney Lausch. “As part of Project Guardian, we will work closer than ever with federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to reduce the unacceptable level of violent crime and help keep our citizens safe.”
“Gun crime remains a pervasive problem in too many communities across America,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “The Department of Justice is redoubling its commitment to tackling this issue through the launch of Project Guardian. Building on the success of past programs like Triggerlock, Project Guardian will strengthen our efforts to reduce gun violence by allowing the federal government and our state and local partners to better target offenders who use guns in crimes and those who try to buy guns illegally.”
“Project Guardian will ensure our agents and intelligence resources are leveraging not only National Integrated Ballistic Information Network and eTrace technology to investigate the source and possessors of crime guns, but also our strong partnerships among law enforcement, which are vital to keeping guns out the hands of those that threaten the security of our communities,” said Timothy Jones, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Project Guardian’s implementation is based on five principles:
- Coordinated Prosecution. Federal prosecutors and law enforcement will coordinate with state, local, and tribal law enforcement and prosecutors to consider potential federal prosecution for new cases involving a defendant who: a) was arrested in possession of a firearm; b) is believed to have used a firearm in committing a crime of violence or drug trafficking crime prosecutable in federal court; or c) is suspected of actively committing violent crime(s) in the community on behalf of a criminal organization.
- Enforcing the Background Check System. United States Attorneys, in consultation with ATF, will create new, or review existing, guidelines for intake and prosecution of federal cases involving false statements (including lie-and-try, lie-and-buy, and straw purchasers) made during the acquisition or attempted acquisition of firearms from Federal Firearms Licensees. Particular emphasis is placed on individuals convicted of violent felonies or misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence, individuals subject to protective orders, and individuals who are fugitives where the underlying offense is a felony or misdemeanor crime of domestic violence; individuals suspected of involvement in criminal organizations or of providing firearms to criminal organizations; and individuals involved in repeat denials.
- Improved Information Sharing. On a regular basis, and as often as practicable given current technical limitations, ATF will provide to state law enforcement fusion centers a report listing individuals for whom the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has issued denials, including the basis for the denial, so that state and local law enforcement can take appropriate steps under their laws.
- Coordinated Response to Mental Health Denials. Each United States Attorney will ensure that whenever there is federal case information regarding individuals who are prohibited from possessing a firearm under the mental health prohibition, such information continues to be entered timely and accurately into the United States Attorneys’ Offices’ case-management system for prompt submission to NICS. ATF will engage in additional outreach to state and local law enforcement on how to use this denial information to better assure public safety. Additionally, U.S. Attorneys will consult with relevant district stakeholders to assess feasibility of adopting disruption of early engagement programs to address mental-health-prohibited individuals who attempt to acquire a firearm.
- Crime Gun Intelligence Coordination. Federal, state, local, and tribal prosecutors and law enforcement will work together to ensure effective use of the ATF’s Crime Gun Intelligence Centers (CGICs), and all related resources, to maximize the use of modern intelligence tools and technology. These tools can greatly enhance the speed and effectiveness in identifying trigger-pullers and finding their guns, but the success depends in large part on state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners sharing ballistic evidence and firearm recovery data with the ATF.
In the Northern District of Illinois, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has continued to expand upon significant increases in the prosecution of gun offenders under Project Safe Neighborhoods. In the 2019 Fiscal Year, which ended Sept. 30, 2019, the office charged more federal firearm defendants than were charged in each of the prior 15 years, according to preliminary data. The number of charged firearm defendants in Fiscal Year 2019 was 44% higher than 2018, and 60% higher than 2017, according to preliminary data. These increases are particularly impactful considering that the 2018 and 2017 fiscal years previously stood as the first and second highest years of charged firearm defendants, respectively, in more than a decade.