Attorney Gen. Barr unveils new plan in Memphis to reduce gun violence

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — U.S. Attorney General William Barr was in Memphis Wednesday to unveil Project Guardian, a new plan to reduce gun violence.

Barr said Project Guardian will use federal resources to crack down on crimes involving guns, while working with local and regional law enforcement to reduce violent crime.

"This is our initial step. We think it will be effective in reducing violent crime," Barr said.

One of the main points of Project Guardian will enhance background checks for gun buyers and crack down on buyers who lie on applications.

"We're going to enforce them with a vengeance," Barr said.

Barr came to Memphis to introduce the program because he said the city's crime and murder rates were several times higher than national averages.

"Violent crime is half of what it was in 1992, but unfortunately there are some places where crime has remained stubborn and stayed high," Barr said. "Memphis is one of those cities that has not benefited as much as it should from that general reduction in crime."

Local law enforcement leaders from the U.S. Attorneys office, Shelby County District Attorney's office, ATF and police and sheriff's office officials from Memphis, Shelby County and surrounding counties were on stage for the announcement.

Project Guardian’s implementation is based on five principles:

1) 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.

2) Enforcing the Background Check System. United States Attorneys, in consultation with the Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in their district, 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.

3) 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.

4) 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 should engage in additional outreach to state and local
law enforcement on how to use this denial information to better assure public safety. Additionally, United States 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. United States Attorneys should consider, when appropriate, recommending court-ordered mental health treatment for any sentences issued to
individuals prohibited based on mental health.

5) 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.

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