With the events of Las Vegas still fresh in legislators’ minds, the question of how best to legally approach the issue of firearms has grown to an increasingly relevant topic of national discourse. It is typical for the conversation to center around blanket legal bans of firearm types, limiting quantities of ammunition to prevent stockpiling, and other measures targeted at the purchaser. While these steps have the power to control arms distribution at the transaction level, the government’s approach hopes to expand well beyond that and, after a recent announcement from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, it appears the Justice Department will be taking a larger and more complex role in tracking and cataloging firearms after purchase.
Under the new measures, which are essentially an updated and more robust version of 2001’s Project Safe Neighborhoods, Attorney General Sessions plans to involve attorneys more deeply in the process of tracing firearms and tracking crime statistics. Attorneys will not only be vested with more responsibility but, according to Sessions, they will be under more scrutiny to produce measurable results.
The backbone of these new gun safety measures, as far as the investigative process is concerned, is the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, a system which enables law enforcement agencies at the local, state, and federal levels to link firearms used in crimes to their purchase history. Previously, requests for this information took about six business days to process. With this new push for result, law enforcement can expect to receive information regarding the weapon’s retail purchase history in as little as 24 hours.
As far as legal professionals are concerned, Sessions will invest a group of 40 new or present prosecutors across a total of 20 U.S. Attorney offices to focus on reducing violent crime through the reinvigorated Project Safe Neighborhoods, though it’s unclear which jurisdictions will be receiving this increased level of focus. Likewise, Sessions has not yet elaborated upon what metrics will be used to measure success or across what time frame they hope to achieve them.
That said, the Department of Justice (DOJ) did state that once assigned, the attorneys and their associated departments would be expected to provide more accurate statistics regarding violent crime. Likewise, the DOJ hopes that adding attorneys to the mix will offer a sort of midway point for local and federal law enforcement authorities to communicate and coordinate their efforts. Crimes of this nature often result in difficult questions of jurisdictional authority, but the more robust justice offices could provide an effective middle ground.