The Department of Justice announced on Friday that the number of people charged with illegal possession of a gun was up almost 23 percent in the second quarter of 2017 compared with the second quarter of 2016.
The DOJ said 2,637 people were charged with illegal gun possession between April 1, 2017, and June 30, 2017. That's 488 more charges than the 2,149 between April 1, 2016, and June 30, 2016—an increase of 22.7 percent. The department said the increased enforcement of current federal gun laws is a direct result of President Trump's executive order on crime reduction and Attorney General Sessions's memo on targeting gun crimes.
"Violent crime is on the rise in many parts of this country, with 27 of our biggest 35 cities in the country coping with rising homicide rates," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. "Law abiding people in some of these communities are living in fear, as they see families torn apart and young lives cut short by gangs and drug traffickers. Following President Trump's Executive Order to focus on reducing crime, I directed federal prosecutors to prioritize taking illegal guns off of our streets, and as a result, we are now prosecuting hundreds more firearms defendants."
Sessions said most of those charged with illegal gun possession were convicted felons, and the charges are intended to send a message to others considering carrying a gun illegally.
"In the first three months since the memo went into effect, charges of unlawful possession of a gun—mostly by previously convicted felons—are up by 23 percent," Sessions said. "That sends a clear message to criminals all over this country that if you carry a gun illegally, you will be held accountable. I am grateful to the many federal prosecutors and agents who are working hard every day to make America safe again."
The DOJ said they also charged 10 percent more defendants with using a firearm in a crime of violence or drug trafficking. Currently the department is on pace to charge 12,626 people with gun-related crimes, which would be an 8 percent increase over 2016, a 20 percent increase over 2015, and a 23 percent increase over 2014. If the department keeps on track it will have overseen the most federal gun crime charges since 2005.
The National Rifle Association, which has advocated for greater enforcement of current federal gun laws, cheered the announcement, saying it is an example of the Trump administration's commitment to "making America safe again."
"The National Rifle Association applauds President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions for understanding that prosecuting violent criminals and protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners are not mutually exclusive ideas," said Chris Cox, the executive director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action. "The Department of Justice report released today shows the administration’s commitment to getting violent criminals and gang members off our streets. After suffering an all-time low during the Obama administration, federal prosecutions of illegal firearm possession are now being taken seriously."