Despite heavy federal penalties for illegally acquiring guns or committing crimes with them, the feds have never been big on prosecuting gun crimes. As Bill Clinton’s attorney general said (and I paraphrase) “that’s a state issue.”
(see our infographic on current attorney general Eric Holder who helps smuggle guns to Mexican drug cartels, and is responsible for what you are about to read).
News of the day shows the trends. Federal gun crime prosecutions started to rise once the National Instant (background) Check System (NICS) was in place, then started a decline in the latter Bush years. Under Obama, the decline was not reversed.
There are a number possibilities with this trend line. Since crime in general has been falling over the past decades, perhaps the total number of ripe opportunities to prosecute people is also falling. But that argument is implausible since there are over 34,000 Brady Act retail purchase violations committed by felons each year.
Another explanation is that of these 34,000+ Brady Act violations and tens of thousands of gun crimes that have federal penalties, that only a few are such strong cases that federal prosecutors have little to choose from. That doesn’t fly either since a felon attempting to buy a gun is a slam dunk, and all the thugs caught shooting rival gang members are easy pickings.
The only real explanation is insincerity. Congress enacted tough federal gun crime penalties and this administration sees little benefit from sending violent criminals to jail. They want the states to carry the load, which makes the entire federal law a meaningless gesture.
Speaking of meaningless gestures, after the Sandy Hook rampage killing, Barack Obama said “We should get tougher on people who buy guns with the express purpose of turning around and selling them to criminals. And we should severely punish anybody who helps them do this.”
A more narrow definition of who Obama thinks fits federal gun crime sanctions. As one BATF director said in the news story “… case selections within the ATF have gone from mostly violent crime cases — which is their forte — toward the regulatory, where they look at dealers, manufacturers and trafficking cases. The agency’s philosophy has shifted to guns are the problem and access to guns are the problem, rather than the criminal being the direct indicator of crime.”
Obama, Holder: Criminals are the direct indicator of violence. Handle that first.