The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced 13 new gun-related indictments in Ohio on Friday bringing the number of gun and violent crime indictments up about 60 percent over the previous two fiscal years.
The crimes included in the indictments ranged from illegal possession of a firearm by a felon to lying on a background check in order to purchase a firearm to possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug crime. A number of the defendants in the cases have long criminal histories which include drug trafficking, robbery, felony assault, assault on a police officer, and other previous convictions. Justin Herdman, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, said the 13 indictments and the rise in gun-related prosecutions are intended to keep the most dangerous criminals off the streets.
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"These defendants include those with a long history of violent crime, as well as defendants who have illegally obtained guns for criminals to use in violent crime like carjackings," he said in a statement. "As part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, we will continue to work with local police and federal law enforcement to target the most dangerous offenders and make our community safer."
The DOJ said the 13 indictments were the result of the work of a wide range of law enforcement agencies. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); Federal Bureau of Investigation; Drug Enforcement Administration; U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; and about half a dozen Ohio state and local law enforcement agencies were involved in at least one of the 13 cases. The ATF said it will continue to pursue anyone who uses firearms to commit crimes.
"There is no place in our community for those who use firearms for violent, criminal purposes," Trevor Velinor, special agent in charge of ATF's Columbus Field Division, said. "ATF will continue to work with our law enforcement partners at the federal, state, and local levels to bring those individuals to justice."
The DOJ has focused on increasing prosecutions of federal gun crimes since President Trump took office in 2017. The department announced in July 2017 that the increased focus had led to a nearly 23 percent increase in gun prosecutions. Attorney General Sessions said the strategy was designed to send a message to those who would commit gun crimes.
"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 at the time. "That sends a clear message to criminals all over this country that if you carry a gun illegally, you will be held accountable."
In March 2018, Sessions reiterated his and the president's support for increased gun prosecutions under current law.
"Under my tenure as attorney general, we have already increased federal gun prosecutions to a 10-year high—and we are just getting started," he said. "With these new measures in place, we are better positioned to disarm criminals and protect the law-abiding people of this country."
The 13 Ohio defendants are awaiting trial.