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DOJ Project Guardian to tackle gun issues

Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales, left, discusses his department’s role in the federal fugitive apprehension operation, which ended October 31. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/ Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The day after Attorney General William Barr visited Albuquerque to wrap up a recent three-month fugitive apprehension operation and to pledge continued assistance to fight violent crime, he announced the launch of “Project Guardian” which will focus on investigating, prosecuting and preventing gun crimes.

“Building on the success of past programs like Triggerlock, Project Guardian will strengthen our efforts to reduce gun violence by allowing the federal government and our state and local partners to better target offenders who use guns in crimes and those who try to buy guns illegally,” Barr said, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Gun crimes – shootings both fatal and non-fatal – continue to plague Albuquerque and have increased or remained constant as other categories of crime have decreased.

Elizabeth Martinez, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said the project is an ongoing effort to reduce crime through federal partnerships and lessons learned through best practices in other communities.

“Project Guardian seeks to ensure that federal investigative and prosecutorial resources are focused where they can have the most impact in reducing gun violence in our communities,” she wrote in an email.

Martinez wrote that Project Guardian will:

• Coordinate prosecution between state, local and tribal law enforcement to determine which defendants should be tried in federal court instead of state court.

• Enforce the background check systems by creating new guidelines to prosecute those who made false statements to get a gun, especially those who have been convicted of violent felonies or misdemeanor domestic violence crimes, those who are subject to protective orders, and those who were suspected of being involved in criminal organizations or had repeatedly been denied guns.

• Share information between the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and state law enforcement about those who were denied firearms based on a background check.

• Make sure when a person is denied a firearm based on mental health reasons that information is entered into the federal system. Then the ATF should engage local law enforcement and other stake holders on how to ensure public safety and the U.S. Attorney’s office can recommend court-ordered mental health treatment.

• Provide access to federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies so they can use the ATF’s Crime Gun Intelligence Centers and other modern technology and intelligence tools to identify suspects and their guns.

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