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Press Release

Attorney General William Barr and U.S. Attorney Trent Shores Announce the Creation of a Working Group on Prosecuting Gun Crimes to Stop and Reduce Domestic Violence

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Oklahoma

Attorney General William P. Barr and U.S. Attorney Trent Shores today announced the formation of a Domestic Violence Working Group aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of convicted domestic abusers, using the tools of federal prosecution to stop and prevent domestic violence. The group will operate under the auspices of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee (AGAC) and be comprised of nine U.S. Attorneys across the country, chaired by U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Erin Nealy Cox.

“Too often, domestic abusers start with threats and abuse, and end up committing extreme violence and even homicide, with devastating impact on families and the community around them,” said Attorney General Barr.  “I have directed this working group to examine this issue and determine the best way to use federal gun prosecutions and other appropriate tools to supplement state, local and tribal efforts to address domestic violence.”

“Domestic violence abusers often escalate from fists to firearms. They drive-up violent crime numbers across a number of categories, including sexual assault and homicide. I am honored Attorney General Barr asked me to join this domestic violence working group,” said U.S. Attorney Shores. “As a career prosecutor, I have seen firsthand the tragic effects of domestic violence not only on the victim, but also on children in the household. It is not uncommon that those children are also severely impacted for the rest of their lives. Moreover, domestic violence is a particular problem in Indian Country, as Native American women and children are often victimized at higher rates than other demographics in America.”

Federal law has long barred convicted felons, as well as individuals subject to certain domestic violence protective orders or convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors, from possessing firearms.

Offenders with domestic violence in their past pose a remarkably high risk of homicide. Research shows that abusers with a gun in the home are five times more likely to kill their partners than abusers who don’t have that same access to a firearm. And according to one recent study, more than half of America’s mass shootings are cases of extreme domestic violence.

Keeping guns from domestic abusers legally prohibited from possessing them would significantly reduce violence in America, a major priority of the Justice Department.

However, federal gun cases involving domestic violence present unique challenges. In some states, the federal and state definitions of domestic violence differ, requiring complex legal analysis that varies based on the location of conviction.

“Our working group will look at how to strategically use federal gun prosecutions involving domestic abusers to protect victims, prevent homicides, and generally lower our violent crime rates in America. We recently instituted a localized federal domestic violence prosecution initiative in partnership with the Tulsa Police Department, Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives,” continued U.S. Attorney Shores. “Assistant United States Attorney and Tribal Liaison Shannon Cozzoni is helping to lead that effort for our office. She is an experienced and talented prosecutor who is passionate about this topic and understands the value of community based services to advocate for victims and deter domestic violence.”

U.S. Attorneys’ offices have worked tirelessly over the years to address these legal challenges with tremendous success.  The Working Group will share best practices, legal analysis and guidance on prosecuting abusers who unlawfully possess guns, and will advise U.S. Attorneys across the country on outreach to local law enforcement, judges, and nonprofit groups.

Working Group members include:

•  Scott W. Brady, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania

•  Robert M. Duncan, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky

•  Nicola T. Hanna, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California 

•  Justin E. Herdman, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio

•  Erin Nealy Cox, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas

•  Christina E. Nolan, U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont

•  Byung J. Pak, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia

•  R. Trent Shores, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma

•  Timothy J. Downing, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma


Public Affairs

Updated June 11, 2019

Violent Crime