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Standing Guard | Project Helps Communities Post Lower Crime Rates

Standing Guard | Project Helps Communities Post Lower Crime Rates

The headline from a Chicago station last August, on the heels of another weekend that saw at least 60 people shot in one of the most violent cities in the country, read: “It Doesn't Take a Rocket Scientist to Figure Out Why Shootings Won't Stop.”

Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson had seen enough. “I’m tired of it. … People are sick and tired of it, and they should be,” Johnson said.

Chicago’s top cop explained that too many criminals aren’t afraid to pull the trigger, because they don’t face significant prison time when they do. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out,” Johnson said. “If people don’t give us information we need, and our judicial partners don’t hold them accountable, would you stop if that’s what you wanted to do? You know, it’s ridiculous.”

Pointing out that most of the violence in Chicago is committed by repeat criminals, Johnson stated what most gun owners have long known. “As long as we fail to create repercussions for carrying and using illegal guns, or, more importantly, hold repeat violent offenders accountable for their actions, we’re simply going to continue to have these discussions.”

That, of course, has been the position of NRA for decades, and I’ve been fighting for tough penalties against violent criminals who use illegal guns for as long as I’ve been leading our Association.

You would think everyone could agree that we should prosecute the bad guys. But I have come to realize that within a circle of powerful political and media elites, their goal to eradicate the Second Amendment has become more important than public safety.

Take The New York Times. Just a few months ago, the Times criticized efforts by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department to enforce existing federal gun laws to punish firearm offenders as harshly and quickly as possible. In a biased fashion, the paper relied upon anonymous sources to argue that enforcement of existing laws may “be used to sap energy from further legislative or regulatory efforts to combat gun violence, like regulating assault weapons or increasing background check requirements.”

The anti-freedom elites just don’t get it. But we do. So do prosecutors in Alabama. This past fall, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Montgomery, Ala., marked the one-year anniversary of the Justice Department’s anti-crime initiative—the same initiative panned by The New York Times.

Alabama officials credited the program, called Project Safe Neighborhoods, with helping build effective partnerships between federal, state and local crime fighters. A key step, according to these officials, is using federal firearm laws and the certainty of prison terms to put criminal ringleaders out of commission.

David Hyche, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agent in charge of Alabama, explained that hardened criminals are generally unafraid of state prosecutions, because of the expectation of early parole.

“If a criminal is arrested and they think they’re going into the state system in Alabama, it’s not a great tool to use to try to get cooperation because they know they’re not going to be there long,” Hyche said.

However, as Hyche noted, there is no parole in the federal system, where offenders serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.

“There’s great fear when somebody is sentenced to 15 years and they determine they have no parole,” Hyche said. That fear can be used by law enforcement to gain cooperation from offenders in targeting organized crime.

U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin said the program was achieving measurable results. “Drug traffickers who possess and use firearms do so for three reasons,” Franklin said. “To protect their drugs. To protect their assets. And to protect themselves while they’re trafficking in illegal narcotics.”

Franklin said the program helped Montgomery achieve a 16 percent drop in violent crime in just one month. Statistics from the Mobile Police Department showed that from Jan. 1, 2018, through Sept. 30, 2018, violent crime dropped by almost 2 percent, criminal homicides dropped by 34.4 percent and robberies dropped by 9.4 percent.

U.S. Attorney Jay Town, of Alabama’s Northern District, said protecting citizens is the ultimate goal of targeting violent gun criminals with existing federal laws. “We give those citizens in that neighborhood, that community, their neighborhood back,” Town said.

Protecting citizens by simply and fully enforcing existing federal gun laws against violent criminals with guns, drug dealers with guns, and criminal gangs with guns.

It’s not rocket science, … and it’s what the more than 5 million men and women of the NRA, and the vast majority of Americans, have stood for and long believed.

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