Attorney General will 'better enforce gun laws,' prioritize school safety

The nation’s top law enforcement official said this week the Department of Justice will prioritize school safety and better enforce existing gun laws.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the steps Monday, just hours after the White House revealed a four-pronged prevention plan for school violence.

“We are increasing the number of school resource officers, improving background checks and more aggressively prosecuting those who illegally attempt to purchase a firearm, and reviewing and enhancing the way our law enforcement agencies respond to tips from the public,” he said.

Sessions said the federal COPS Program — a competitive grant used to recruit more police officers at the state and local level — will prioritize school resource officers. The DOJ will also provide firearms and situational awareness training to school personnel, as well as participate in the White House’s Federal Commission on School Safety.

The commission, chaired by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, will study gun violence prevention proposals — including placing age restrictions on rifle sales — and make recommendations to elected officials.

In addition, the DOJ will focus on prosecuting “lie and try” cases involving disqualified buyers who lie on federal background check forms in order to obtain a gun. The department will also continue working on regulations to ban bump stocks and continue increasing violent crime prosecutions.

Sessions said, through Project Safe Neighborhoods, DOJ prosecutions for those charged with violating federal firearm laws reached a decade high in 2017. Violent crime prosecutions are likewise at the highest rate in more than 25 years. He said Monday the department “is just getting started.”

The DOJ will also provide $1 million in emergency funding to cover the law enforcement overtime costs related to the shooting investigation at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last month.

In an effort to improve the efficacy of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, Sessions said the department will mandate all relevant reporting federal agencies either confirm compliance or create a viable plan to achieve compliance within 45 days. Sessions also called on the FBI to identify jurisdictions with low reporting rates. Meanwhile, he will personally work with state governors and law enforcement officials to resolve incomplete criminal records — a “significant issue” identified by the FBI when examining the system’s shortfalls.

Finally, the DOJ will also use federal grant programs to encourage states to improve the speed, accuracy and availability of criminal records within the databases feeding NICS.

“No child should have to fear going to school or walking the streets of their neighborhood,” Sessions said. “With these new measures in place, we are better positioned to disarm criminals and protect the law-abiding people of this country.”

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