Department of Justice announces steps to combat gun violence

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice introduced a package of directives to support Donald Trump's proposal to increase school safety by enforcing laws already in place and asking states and other federal agencies to help strengthen the firearm purchase background check system. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

March 13 (UPI) — The Department of Justice announced a series of actions Monday intended to support President Donald Trump‘s plan to prevent school shootings.

The package of directives focuses on enforcing laws already in place and asking states and other federal agencies to help strengthen the firearm purchase background check system, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said.

“No child should have to fear going to school or walking the streets of their neighborhood,” said Sessions. “Today I am directing the Department of Justice to take a number of new steps that will help make schools and the American people safer from the threat of gun violence.”

Sessions directed federal agencies to verify within 45 days that they are in full compliance or plan to become compliant with an existing law requiring agencies to report relevant records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

The NICS was scrutinized after U.S. Air Force airman Devin Kelley opened fire at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 people in November and it was later revealed the Air Force failed to report Kelley’s history of domestic assault to the database.

The DOJ issued a directive calling for the FBI to identify local jurisdictions that are failing to report arrests to their state repositories and heads of federal agencies to certify that they will report all relevant records to the NICS.

Sessions also called on federal prosecutors to “swiftly and aggressively” prosecute people who are prohibited from possessing firearms but lie to deceive the federal background system when attempting to purchase one.

The DOJ also addressed mass shootings Saturday by proposing a regulation banning bump stock devices on firearms, which increase the firing rate of rifles and were used in the fatal Las Vegas shooting last fall that killed 58 people attending a country music festival.

Earlier Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said raising the age limit for the purchase of some firearms wasn’t completely off the table, though the Trump administration dropped its support for the restrictions.

The administration released a list of proposals Sunday night to improve school safety in the wake of shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17 people. The plan includes “rigorous” firearms training for some school officials, support for a bill to strengthen background checks for gun purchasers and the creation of a task force to study school shootings.

What the proposal doesn’t give is support for raising the age limit to purchase certain firearms, something President Donald Trump earlier indicated he was in favor of. The president faced immediate backlash from Democrats for failing to include the restriction in his list of proposals.

“To no one’s surprise, the president has caved to the gun lobby. Responding to the murder of 17 students and educators by endorsing the gun lobby’s platform is a shameful abdication of the president’s responsibility to lead,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Monday.

Sanders said, though, the idea was still being considered.

“The president as you know doesn’t have the ability to just create federal law,” Sanders said. “So what he is pushing forward are things that can be immediately accomplished either through the administration or that have broad-based bipartisan support in Congress. But that doesn’t mean that he has wiped away some of those others things. We’re still looking at how best we can move forward.”

She said Trump still supports raising the age limit for purchasing some guns. On Twitter, Trump indicated it was a matter for the states to consider.

“On 18 to 21 Age Limits, watching court cases and rulings before acting,” he wrote. “States are making this decision. Things are moving rapidly on this, but not much political support (to put it mildly).”


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