DOJ launches task force to keep guns away from domestic abusers

June 12, 2019

The Justice Department is forming a new task force to keep domestic abusers from getting guns.

Attorney General William Barr announced the new effort in a press release Tuesday. The working group will include nine U.S. Attorneys.

“Too often, domestic abusers start with threats and abuse, and end up committing extreme violence and even homicide, with devastating impact on families and the community around them,” Barr said. “I have directed this working group to examine this issue and determine the best way to use federal gun prosecutions and other appropriate tools to supplement state, local and tribal efforts to address domestic violence.”

New initiative

In a press release, Barr said that the DOJ would expand efforts to coordinate law enforcement at the national and state level to keep domestic abusers from accessing firearms. The release notes that convicted felons, as well as domestic abusers convicted of misdemeanors or subjected to protective orders, are already barred at the federal level from accessing guns — but the differing definitions of domestic violence that exist at the state level make enforcement a challenge.

“Federal gun cases involving domestic violence present unique challenges,” Barr said. “In some states, the federal and state definitions of domestic violence differ, requiring complex legal analysis that varies based on the location of conviction.”

The new task force will look to “supplement” state-level efforts to keep guns out of abusers’ hands. The task force will be led by the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee (AGAC) and consist of nine U.S. Attorneys across the country, chaired by U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Erin Nealy Cox.

The group will “share best practices, legal analysis and guidance on prosecuting abusers who unlawfully possess guns, and will advise U.S. Attorneys across the country on outreach to local law enforcement, judges, and nonprofit groups.”

“With so many domestic disputes escalating from bruises to bullets, we felt we needed to supplement our state and local partners’ efforts to curb domestic violence with federal prosecutions,” said U.S. Attorney Nealy Cox. “We hope our initial cases send a message to convicted abusers:  Not only could the Justice Department theoretically prosecute abusers for firearm possession — they have and they will.”

Reducing homicide risk

Barr’s new task force addresses a link between domestic violence and homicide within intimate relationships. Barr cited research which shows that domestic abusers are more likely to commit homicide.

According to one finding, domestic abusers are five times more likely to kill their partners when they have guns. According to the Center for Disease Control, half of all female homicide victims are killed by their partners.

“Keeping guns from domestic abusers legally prohibited from possessing them would significantly reduce violence in America, a major priority of the Justice Department,” the DOJ said.

Media tars Barr

Barr’s new task force does not seem to have drawn much attention in the media. For weeks, the mainstream media has focused on attacking Barr over false allegations that he committed a “cover-up” of President Trump’s so-called crimes.

Democrats have accused Barr of providing a misleading summary of Robert Mueller’s report, and on Tuesday, the House voted to hold Barr in “civil contempt” for refusing to hand over Mueller’s unredacted report. The vote capped off weeks of threats by Democrats to hold Barr in contempt or even have him arrested.

Democrats have characterized Barr as loyal to Trump instead of the Constitution. Barr has been attacked by Democrats and the media for launching a broad investigation of alleged impropriety in the beginning stages of the Trump-Russia investigation, which Democrats and the liberal media have depicted as an attempt to punish Trump’s enemies.

In recent interviews, Barr has discussed his thoughts on taking on the role of attorney general in such a hyper-partisan time, and the toll it has taken on him personally — which in his words, isn’t terribly worrisome.

“Nowadays, people don’t care about the merits or the substance. They only care about who it helps, whether my side benefits or the other side benefits. Everything is gauged by politics, and I say that is antithetical to the way the Department [of Justice] runs, and any attorney general in this period is going to end up losing a lot of political capital,” Barr told CBS. “And that’s one of the reasons I decided I should take [the job] on. At my stage in my life, it wouldn’t make any difference.”


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Matthew Boose

Matthew Boose is a staff writer for Conservative Institute. He has a Bachelor's degree from Stony Brook University and has contributed to The Daily Caller and The Stony Brook Press.