DC area’s top prosecutors team up to track illegal guns over state lines

The region’s top prosecutors are announcing a local rollout of a national crime initiative aimed at curbing illegal guns, called Project Guardian DMV.

It will essentially coordinate law enforcement in three jurisdictions with the goal of reducing gun violence.

“The goal is to ensure that federal, investigative and prosecutorial resources are focused where they will have the most impact in reducing gun violence in our communities,” said U.S. Attorney for D.C. Jessie K. Liu at the Law Enforcement Memorial on Friday.

With 148 homicides in the District — 80% of which are related to illegal firearms — it’s an effort that D.C police Chief Peter Newsham welcomes.

“I have seen mothers who have lost their sons. I see children who have lost their fathers, and primarily, it is due to gun violence,” Newsham said in regard to the personal impact the initiative could make.

Project Guardian DMV will localize the effort to the D.C. area, and it expands upon the current partnership among the U.S. Attorney’s offices in D.C. and Virginia’s Eastern District; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and D.C. police. It will also include the U.S. Attorney’s offices in Maryland and the Western District of Virginia, as well as Virginia State Police.

The new initiative builds on the Justice Department’s national effort, Project Guardian, announced by Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday.

U.S. Attorney for Maryland Robert K. Hur said it will allow the jurisdictions to better communicate so that crime is tracked over state lines.

“For example, if armed drug trafficking gangs get a foothold in one region, you can bet that the drugs and the gun violence will spread and impact other parts of the region. That is why we are here together to ensure we think regionally, continue to cooperate and coordinate, and apply this model successfully to reduce gun violence,” Hur said.

In addition to coordinating prosecution and gun intelligence information, the three jurisdictions will enforce the background check system and follow up on mental health denials to investigate why someone’s firearm application is denied and what happened next.

Particular emphasis will be on those convicted of violent felonies or misdemeanor domestic violence crimes, those subject to protective orders, and fugitives whose underlying offense is a domestic violence crime; people suspected of being involved in organized crime or of providing firearms to criminal organizations; and people involved in repeat denials, according to the Justice Department.

“Through this partnership, we hope to stanch the flow of illegal guns from the commonwealth of Virginia to Washington, Baltimore and other cities in the Northeast where, too often, they are used to commit violent crimes,” said Thomas T. Cullen, U.S. attorney for Virginia’s Western District.

“We will work closely with our U.S. attorney partners, the ATF, [D.C. police], and the Virginia State Police to identify individuals and groups in western Virginia engaged in this deadly enterprise and put them in federal prison.”

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