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DC leans on FBI, ATF to curb city’s rising murder rate

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the Felon in Possession initiative at a news conference Wednesday. Behind her is Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Kevin Donahue, D.C. police Chief Peter Newsham and U.S. Attorney for D.C. Jesse Liu. (WTOP/John Aaron)

WASHINGTON — D.C. and federal authorities are cracking down on armed felons in an attempt to bring down the District’s rising homicide rate.

Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the Felon in Possession initiative at a news conference Wednesday. The initiative, which goes into effect this month, will make illegally possessing a firearm as a felon a federal crime. Previously, most cases were charged under local “felon-in-possession” laws.

“These are individuals already convicted of a serious crime who have no business carrying a gun,” said Jessie Liu, U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. “They’re armed, repeat offenders.”

Bowser said she and Liu had “discussed the importance of holding people accountable when they commit violent crimes in our city and when they demonstrate a willingness to use guns in our community.”

The Felon in Possession initiative will involve support from federal agencies, including the FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency, U.S. Marshals and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Cases would be prosecuted in U.S. District Court.

“To have all of the federal resources, I can’t thank the U.S. attorney and our federal partners enough,” said D.C. police Chief Peter Newsham.

“We are seeing that folks that are convicted felons, that subsequently go out and pick up a firearm — it’s an indication that, at some point in the future, they could potentially be involved in the shootings and the homicides that occur in our city.”

There were 160 homicides in the District in 2018, up from 116 in 2017.

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