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Press Release

DOJ Charges More Than 14,200 Defendants with Firearms-Related Crimes in FY20; Southern District of California Charged 107 Defendants

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California

Assistant U. S. Attorneys Andrew R. Haden (619) 546-6961 and Timothy D. Coughlin (619) 546-6768 

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – October 13, 2020

SAN DIEGO – The Department of Justice announced today it has charged more than 14,200 defendants with firearms-related crimes during Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, despite the challenges of COVID 19 and its impact on the criminal justice process.

These cases have been a Department priority since November 2019 when Attorney General William P. Barr announced his commitment to investigating, prosecuting, and combatting gun crimes as a critical part of the Department’s anti-violent crime strategy. These firearms-related charges are the result of the critical law enforcement partnership between United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, led by Acting Director Regina Lombardo, who has made firearms-related investigations a priority.

“The number one priority of government is to keep its citizens safe,” said Attorney General Barr. “By preventing firearms from falling into the hands of individuals who are prohibited from having them, we can stop violent crime before it happens. Violating federal firearms laws is a serious crime and offenders face serious consequences.  The Department of Justice is committed to investigating and prosecuting individuals who illegally buy, sell, use, or possess firearms. Reducing gun violence requires a coordinated effort, and we could not have charged more than 14,000 individuals with firearms-related crimes without the hard work of the dedicated law enforcement professionals at the ATF, our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country, and especially all of our state and local law enforcement partners.”

“Protecting the public from violent crime involving firearms is at the core of ATF’s mission,” commented ATF Acting Director Regina Lombardo.  “Every day the men and women of ATF pursue and investigate those who use firearms to commit violent crimes in our communities, many of whom are prohibited from possessing firearms from previous convictions.  ATF, in collaboration with the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the nation, is committed to bringing these offenders to justice for their egregious and violent criminal acts.”

“Each violent crime committed with a gun has a ripple effect that causes an entire community to feel vulnerable and fearful.  For that reason, reducing gun violence and enforcing federal firearms laws remain top priorities in this district,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer.  “We are determined to make our communities safer by aggressively pursuing any individual who has acquired, possessed, or used a firearm in violation of federal law.”

Of the more than 14,200 defendants charged, 107 were prosecuted for federal firearms violations by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of California. 

Under federal law, it is illegal to possess a firearm if you fall into one of nine prohibited categories including being a felon, illegal alien, or unlawful user of a controlled substance. Further, it is unlawful to possess a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense or violent crime.  It is also illegal to purchase – or even to attempt to illegally purchase - firearms if the buyer is a prohibited person or illegally purchasing a firearm on behalf of others. Lying on ATF Form 4473, which is used to lawfully purchase a firearm, is also a federal offense. 

In the Southern District of California, the majority of firearms cases were brought against felons who unlawfully possessed firearms.  In the last year, however, there was also an increased effort to prosecute individuals who were in possession of firearms in violation of a domestic violence restraining order.

For example, in October 2019, a San Diego Superior Court judge imposed a domestic violence restraining order upon Daniel Anthony Fischbeck. According to the criminal complaint, the restraining order explicitly prohibited Fischbeck from possessing firearms. On January 1, 2020, Fischbeck was arrested after violating the restraining order for the second time.  At the time of Fischbeck’s arrest, a Springfield XD .45 caliber handgun was found in his car.  He was then charged federally for several federal firearms offenses. Fischbeck recently pleaded guilty in federal court to being a methamphetamine addict while in possession of the Springfield handgun, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 922(g)(3).  Fischbeck is set to be sentenced in federal court on November 2, 2020. U.S. v. Fischbeck, 20-CR-479-LAB.

The focus on domestic violence and firearms is supported by recent crime data.  In September, a report by the San Diego Association of Governments, also known as SANDAG, revealed that the San Diego region saw a 3 percent increase in domestic violence in the first half of 2020 over the same period last year.  SANDAG’s data shows more notable increases in domestic violence in certain local communities: Santee (18 percent); El Cajon (18 percent); and National City (74 percent).  Meanwhile, statistics cited by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence indicate that one in three female murder victims are killed by intimate partners and that an abuser’s access to a firearm increases the risk of femicide by at least 400 percent.

The Department of Justice is committed to prosecuting these firearms offenses as well as using all modern technologies available to law enforcement such as the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, known as NIBIN, to promote gun crime intelligence. Keeping illegal firearms out of the hands of violent criminals will continue to be a priority of the Department of Justice and we will use all appropriate, available means to keep the law abiding people of this country safe from gun crime. 

For more information on the lawful purchasing of firearms, please see:     

Updated October 23, 2020

Project Guardian
Firearms Offenses
Press Release Number: CAS20-1013-Guns