SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS Tables
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PROJECT EXILE: THE SAFE STREETS AND NEIGHBORHOODS ACT OF 2000
SUBCOMMITTEE ON CRIME
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SIXTH CONGRESS
APRIL 6, 2000
Serial No. 141
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Printed for the use of the Committee on the Judiciary
For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office
Superintendent of Documents, Congressional Sales Office, Washington, DC 20402
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois, Chairman
F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, Jr., Wisconsin
BILL McCOLLUM, Florida
GEORGE W. GEKAS, Pennsylvania
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
LAMAR S. SMITH, Texas
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
CHARLES T. CANADY, Florida
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio
BOB BARR, Georgia
WILLIAM L. JENKINS, Tennessee
ASA HUTCHINSON, Arkansas
EDWARD A. PEASE, Indiana
CHRIS CANNON, Utah
JAMES E. ROGAN, California
LINDSEY O. GRAHAM, South Carolina
MARY BONO, California
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSPENCER BACHUS, Alabama
JOE SCARBOROUGH, Florida
DAVID VITTER, Louisiana
JOHN CONYERS, Jr., Michigan
BARNEY FRANK, Massachusetts
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
RICK BOUCHER, Virginia
JERROLD NADLER, New York
ROBERT C. SCOTT, Virginia
MELVIN L. WATT, North Carolina
ZOE LOFGREN, California
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
MAXINE WATERS, California
MARTIN T. MEEHAN, Massachusetts
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
ROBERT WEXLER, Florida
STEVEN R. ROTHMAN, New Jersey
TAMMY BALDWIN, Wisconsin
ANTHONY D. WEINER, New York
THOMAS E. MOONEY, SR., General Counsel-Chief of Staff
JULIAN EPSTEIN, Minority Chief Counsel and Staff Director
Subcommittee on Crime
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCBILL McCOLLUM, Florida, Chairman
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio
BOB BARR, Georgia
GEORGE W. GEKAS, Pennsylvania
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
LAMAR S. SMITH, Texas
CHARLES T. CANADY, Florida
ASA HUTCHINSON, Arkansas
ROBERT C. SCOTT, Virginia
MARTIN T. MEEHAN, Massachusetts
STEVEN R. ROTHMAN, New Jersey
ANTHONY D. WEINER, New York
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
GLENN R. SCHMITT, Chief Counsel
DANIEL J. BRYANT, Chief Counsel
RICK FILKINS, Counsel
CARL THORSEN, Counsel
BOBBY VASSAR, Minority Counsel
C O N T E N T S
April 6, 2000
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TEXT OF BILL
McCollum, Hon. Bill, a Representative in Congress From the State of Florida, and chairman, Subcommittee on Crime
Blek, Mary L., president, The Bell Campaign
Castaldo, Rick, Columbine, CO
Earley, Mark, Attorney General, Commonwealth of Virginia, Richmond, VA
Fails, Rev. William, Highpoint, NC
Gilmore, Hon. Jim, Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia
Holton, Walter C., Jr., United States Attorney, Middle District of North Carolina, U.S. Department of Justice
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC McCaul, Michael T., Special Assistant to the Attorney General, Austin, TX
Rand, Kristen, Violence Policy Center
Sukhia, Kenneth W., Esq., Fowler, White, Gillen, Boggs, Villareal and Banker, P.A.
Terwilliger, George J., III, Esq., partner, McGuire Woods, Battle & Boothe
Wintemute, Dr. Garen, director, Violence Prevention Research Program, University of California, Davis
LETTERS, STATEMENTS, ETC., SUBMITTED FOR THE HEARING
Blek, Mary L., president, The Bell Campaign: Prepared statement
Castaldo, Rick, Columbine, CO: Prepared statement
Earley, Mark, Attorney General, Commonwealth of Virginia, Richmond, VA: Prepared statement
Ehrlich, Robert L., Jr., a Representative in Congress From the State of Maryland: Prepared statement
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Fails, Rev. William, Highpoint, NC: Prepared statement
Gilmore, Hon. Jim, Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia: Prepared statement
Holton, Walter C., Jr., United States Attorney, Middle District of North Carolina, U.S. Department of Justice: Prepared statement
McCaul, Michael T., Special Assistant to the Attorney General, Austin, TX: Prepared statement
Rand, Kristen, Violence Policy Center: Prepared statement
Sukhia, Kenneth W., Esq., Fowler, White, Gillen, Boggs, Villareal and Banker, P.A.: Prepared statement
Terwilliger, George J., III, Esq., partner, McGuire Woods, Battle & Boothe: Prepared statement
Wintemute, Dr. Garen, director, Violence Prevention Research Program, University of California, Davis: Prepared statement
PROJECT EXILE: THE SAFE STREETS AND NEIGHBORHOODS ACT OF 2000
THURSDAY, APRIL 6, 2000
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House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Crime,
Committee on the Judiciary,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 1 p.m., in room 2141, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Bill McCollum [chairman of the subcommittee] presiding.
Present: Representatives Bill McCollum, Steve Chabot, Bob Barr, George W. Gekas, Howard Coble, Lamar S. Smith, John Conyers, Jr., Sheila Jackson Lee, Robert C. Scott, Tom Bliley and Robert Ehrlich.
Staff Present: Daniel J. Bryant, chief counsel; Rick Filkins, counsel; Veronica L. Eligan, staff assistant; and Bobby Vassar, minority counsel.
OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN MCCOLLUM
Mr. MCCOLLUM. This hearing of the Subcommittee on Crime will come to order.
This afternoon, we have the opportunity to consider legislation that offers a bi-partisan, common sense solution to the problem of gun violence. Project Exile: The Safe Streets and Neighborhoods Act of 2000, will make neighborhoods and communities safer by promoting tough, State prison time for violent criminals who use guns. This proven approach to reducing gun crime combines enforcing the gun laws already on the books, and ensuring mandatory minimum sentences for criminals who break them.
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[The bill, H.R. 4051, follows:]
H. R. 4051
To establish a grant program that provides incentives for States to enact mandatory minimum sentences for certain firearms offenses, and for other purposes.
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
MARCH 22, 2000
Mr. MCCOLLUM introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary
To establish a grant program that provides incentives for States to enact mandatory minimum sentences for certain firearms offenses, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ''Project Exile: The Safe Streets and Neighborhoods Act of 2000''.
SEC. 2. FIREARMS SENTENCING INCENTIVE GRANTS.
(a) PROGRAM ESTABLISHED.Title II of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 is amended
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC (1) by redesignating subtitle D as subtitle E; and
(2) by inserting after subtitle C the following new subtitle:
''Subtitle DFirearms Sentencing Incentive Grants
''SEC. 20351. DEFINITIONS.
''For purposes of this subtitle:
''(1) The term 'violent crime' means murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, or a crime in a reasonably comparable class of serious violent crimes as approved by the Attorney General.
''(2) The term 'serious drug trafficking crime' means an offense under State law for the manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance, for which State law authorizes to be imposed a sentence to a term of imprisonment of 10 years or more.
''(3) The term 'part 1 violent crime' means murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault as reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for purposes of the Uniform Crime Reports.
''(4) The term 'State' means a State of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
''SEC. 20352. AUTHORIZATION OF GRANTS.
''(a) IN GENERAL.From amounts made available to carry out this subtitle, the Attorney General shall provide Firearms Sentencing Incentive grants under section 20353 to eligible States.
''(b) ALLOWABLE USES.Such grants may be used by a State only for the following purposes:
''(1) To support
''(A) law enforcement agencies;
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC ''(B) prosecutors;
''(D) probation officers;
''(E) correctional officers;
''(F) the juvenile justice system;
''(G) the expansion, improvement, and coordination of criminal history records; or
''(H) case management programs involving the sharing of information about serious offenders.
''(2) To carry out a public awareness and community support program described in section 20353(a)(2).
''(3) To build or expand correctional facilities.
''(c) SUBGRANTS.A State may use such grants directly or by making subgrants to units of local government within that State.
''SEC. 20353. FIREARMS SENTENCING INCENTIVE GRANTS.
''(a) ELIGIBILITY.Except as provided in subsection (b), to be eligible to receive a grant award under this section, a State shall submit an application to the Attorney General that complies with the following:
''(1) The application shall demonstrate that such State has implemented firearms sentencing laws requiring 1 or more of the following:
''(A) Any person who, during and in relation to any violent crime or serious drug trafficking crime, uses or carries a firearm, shall, in addition to the punishment provided for such crime of violence or serious drug trafficking crime, be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 5 years (without the possibility of parole during that term).
''(B) Any person who, having at least 1 prior conviction for a violent crime, possesses a firearm, shall, for such possession, be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 5 years (without the possibility of parole during that term).
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC ''(2) The application shall demonstrate that such State has implemented, or will implement not later than 6 months after receiving a grant under this subtitle, a public awareness and community support program that seeks to build support for, and warns potential violators of, the firearms sentencing laws implemented under paragraph (1).
''(3) The application shall provide assurances that such State
''(A) will coordinate with Federal prosecutors and Federal law enforcement agencies whose jurisdictions include such State, so as to promote Federal involvement and cooperation in the enforcement of laws within that State; and
''(B) will allocate its resources in a manner calculated to reduce crime in the high-crime areas of the State.
''(b) ALTERNATE ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENT.
''(1) IN GENERAL.A State that is unable to demonstrate in its application that such State meets the requirement of subsection (a)(1) shall be eligible to receive a grant award under this section notwithstanding that inability if that State, in such application, provides assurances that such State has in effect an equivalent Federal prosecution agreement.
''(2) EQUIVALENT FEDERAL PROSECUTION AGREEMENT.For purposes of paragraph (1), an equivalent Federal prosecution agreement is an agreement with appropriate Federal authorities that ensures 1 or more of the following:
''(A) If a person engages in the conduct specified in subsection (a)(1)(A), but the conviction of that person under State law for that conduct is not certain to result in the imposition of an additional sentence as specified in that subsection, that person is referred for prosecution for such conduct under Federal law.
''(B) If a person engages in the conduct specified in subsection (a)(1)(B), but the conviction of that person under State law for that conduct is not certain to result in the imposition of a sentence as specified in that subsection, that person is referred for prosecution for such conduct under Federal law.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC''SEC. 20354. FORMULA FOR GRANTS.
''(a) IN GENERAL.The amount available for grants under section 20353 for any fiscal year shall be allocated to each eligible State, in the ratio that the number of part 1 violent crimes reported by such State to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for the 3 years preceding the year in which the determination is made, bears to the average annual number of part 1 violent crimes reported by all eligible States to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for the 3 years preceding the year in which the determination is made.
''(b) UNAVAILABLE DATA.If data regarding part 1 violent crimes in any State is substantially inaccurate or is unavailable for the 3 years preceding the year in which the determination is made, the Attorney General shall utilize the best available comparable data regarding the number of violent crimes for the previous year for the State for the purposes of allocation of funds under this subtitle.
''SEC. 20355. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.
''(a) AUTHORIZATIONS.There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this subtitle
''(1) $10,000,000 for fiscal year 2001;
''(2) $15,000,000 for fiscal year 2002;
''(3) $20,000,000 for fiscal year 2003;
''(4) $25,000,000 for fiscal year 2004; and
''(5) $30,000,000 for fiscal year 2005.
''(b) LIMITATIONS ON FUNDS.
''(1) USES OF FUNDS.Funds made available pursuant to this subtitle shall be used only to carry out the purposes described in section 20352(b).
''(2) NONSUPPLANTING REQUIREMENT.Funds made available pursuant to this section shall not be used to supplant State funds, but shall be used to increase the amount of funds that would, in the absence of Federal funds, be made available from State sources.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC ''(3) ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS.Not more than 3 percent of the funds made available pursuant to this section shall be available to the Attorney General for purposes of administration, research and evaluation, technical assistance, and data collection.
''(4) CARRYOVER OF APPROPRIATIONS.Funds appropriated pursuant to this section during any fiscal year shall remain available until expended.
''(5) MATCHING FUNDS.The Federal share of a grant received under this subtitle may not exceed 90 percent of the costs of a proposal as described in an application approved under this subtitle.
''SEC. 20356. REPORT BY THE ATTORNEY GENERAL.
''Beginning on October 1, 2001, and each subsequent July 1 thereafter, the Attorney General shall submit to the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate and the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives a report on the implementation of this subtitle. The report shall include information regarding the eligibility of States under section 20353 and the distribution and use of funds under this subtitle.''.
(b) CLERICAL AMENDMENT.The table of contents in section 2 of that Act is amended
(1) by redesignating the item relating to subtitle D of title II as subtitle E of such title; and
(2) by inserting after subtitle C of such title the following:
''Subtitle DFirearms Sentencing Incentive Grants
''Sec. 20351. Definitions.
''Sec. 20352. Authorization of grants.
''Sec. 20353. Firearms sentencing incentive grants.
''Sec. 20354. Formula for grants.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC ''Sec. 20355. Authorization of appropriations.
''Sec. 20356. Report by the Attorney General.''.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Project Exile is a common sense approach that is enjoying growing bi-partisan support around the country. It provides some common ground for Congress, as we seek to do what we can to address gun violence. I am hopeful that many of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle will join us as cosponsors of this proven and responsible enforcement initiative.
The bill provides incentive block grants for State criminal justice systems totalling $100 million over 5 years to those States that ensure a mandatory minimum 5 year prison sentencewithout parolefor anyone who uses or carries a firearm during any violent crime or serious drug trafficking crime, or, for a previously convicted violent felon who is caught possessing a gun. The minimum mandatory sentence must be in addition to the punishment provided for the underlying crime. States can qualify through State sentencing laws, or an agreement with the Federal Government to prosecute under existing Federal gun criminal laws which carry minimum mandatory sentences.
The real heartache regarding the violence involving guns is concerning avoidable tragedies, avoidable in the sense that so many gun criminals are back on the streets before they should be, and then they are committing additional violent crimes. In States and cities around the country where aggressive prosecution of gun crimes has been coupled with tough prison sentences, violent crime has gone down. Getting such criminals off the streets leads to a dramatic reduction in crime, and sends an unmistakable deterrent messagewe will not tolerate gun crimes.
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Project Exile builds on the success of the Truth-in-Sentencing Program that Congress has funded over the last 5 years. Truth-in-Sentencing is an incentive grant program to support State prisons for States that require convicted violent offenders and drug traffickers to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences. Since the grant program was first offered, the number of States with Truth-in-Sentencing has gone from 5 to 27. Most experts credit this program with much of the violent crime reduction reflected in the recent national statistics. Funds received by States under Project Exile could be used for hiring and training more judges, prosecutors and probation officers, developing information sharing case management systems for serious offenders, increasing prison capacities, and for a wide variety of other improvements in the State Criminal Justice systems.
Florida, my home State, is one of six States which already qualify for funding under the bill, thanks to Governor Jeb Bush's 1020Life bill, which became law last July. In Florida, if during a crime you pull a gun on another person, you will go to prison for 10 years. If during a crime you pull the trigger, it means 20 years in prison, and if you shoot someone during the commission of a crime, you get 25 years to life in prison. Project Exile encourages other States to follow suit.
I want to make clear that Project Exile is only part of the solution to the problems of gun and school violence. These are complex problems demanding a comprehensive response. As legislators and as citizens, we must do what is within our power to address the strength of families and the health of our culture. We must reform our overwhelmed Juvenile Justice systems, and we must do much more to enforce gun laws already on the books.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In addition to taking action to make this bill a reality on a national level, certain additional measures are needed. Such provisions include child safety locks, workable mandatory gun show background checks, a juvenile Brady law, a ban on juvenile possession of assault weapons, and a ban on importation of large capacity ammunition clips.
Let us be clear, even if we did all these things tomorrow, we would not really be getting at the problem at all, unless we are serious about enforcing the gun laws already on the books, and there are more than 20,000 of them at the Federal and State levels, and making sure that violent gun criminals serve appropriate sentences. Tough, mandatory sentences for violent gun criminals must be the cornerstone of any meaningful effort to make our neighborhoods safer.
The success of Project Exile in Virginia has been truly remarkable, and is the model we are following here today. Prior to Project Exile's implementation in Virginia, Richmond had one of the highest murder rates in the world, and an exploding violent crime problem. Since 1997 when Project Exile was begun in Richmond, homicides have dropped 46 percent, the lowest level since 1987. Crimes involving guns have dropped 65 percent, aggravated assaults have dropped 39 percent, and the overall number of violent crimes has dropped 35 percent.
We are fortunate to have a very distinguished group of witnesses joining us today and I want to thank all of you for your willingness to participate. I look forward to your testimony.
At this time, since this is starting out as pretty much an all Virginia day except for me, I would like to introduce my colleague and ranking member, Mr. Bobby Scott, for his opening remarks.
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Mr. SCOTT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
As you indicated, this is a Virginia day. We are joined by the chairman of the Commerce Committee, our Governor, our Attorney General. Earlier today we had a bill before the Full Committee that was handled by the gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Goodlatte, so it is, in fact, a Virginia day. I want to especially welcome my Governor and Attorney General from Virginia.
I want to thank you for holding this hearing on H.R. 4051, ''Project Exile: The Safe Streets and Neighborhoods Act of 2000.'' Unfortunately, in spite of the appearance of such distinguished Virginians today, I am not able to support the bill in its present form.
First, I cannot support the bill because once again, it journeys down the failed road of mandatory minimum sentencing. We will hear anecdotes by proponents of the bill today about the assertion that Project Exile, like the Shadow, strikes fear in the hearts of evil men. However, we will not hear any empirical evidence that Project Exile has reduced violent crime at any greater rate than it has decreased in other areas in Virginia that did not have Project Exile. Thus, the fearful Shadow is just that, just a shadow.
The mandatory minimum sentences have been studies extensively and have been shown to be ineffective in preventing crime, to distort the sentencing process, to discriminate against minorities in their application, and they waste money.
In a study report entitled, ''Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences, Throwing Away the Key or the Taxpayers' Money,'' the distinguished Rand Commission concluded that mandatory minimum sentences were less effective than either discretionary sentencing or drug treatment in reducing drug-related crime and far more costly than either.
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In a March 17, 2000 letter to the Judiciary Committee, Chairman Hyde, the Judicial Conference of the United States reiterated its opposition to mandatory minimum sentencing schemes for what they say is the 12th time, noting ''The reason for our opposition is manifest. Mandatory minimums severely distort and damage the Federal sentencing system. Mandatories undermine the sentencing guideline regimen Congress so carefully established under the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 by preventing the rational development of guidelines that reduce unwarranted disparity and provide proportionality and fairness.'' Mandatory minimums also destroy honesty in sentencing by encouraging charge in fact plea bargains to avoid mandatory minimums.
In fact, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has documented that mandatory minimum sentences have the opposite of their intended effect. Far from fostering certainty in punishment, mandatory minimums result in unwarranted sentencing disparity. Mandatory can also treat dissimilar offenders in a similar fashion, offenders who can be quite different with respect to the seriousness of their conduct or their danger to society. Mandatories require the sentencing court to impose the same sentence on offenders when sound policy and common sense call for reasonable differences in punishment.
Both the Judicial Center, in a study report entitled, ''The General Effects of Mandatory Prison Terms, A Longitudinal Study of Federal Sentences Imposed,'' and the United States Sentencing Commission in a report entitled, ''Mandatory Minimum Penalties in the Federal Criminal Justice System,'' found that minorities are substantially more likely than whites under comparable circumstances to receive mandatory minimum sentences.
The Sentencing Commission study also found that mandatory minimum sentences increased the disparity in sentences of like offenders because they were not applied in 40 percent of the cases. At the same time, they increased costs as a result of the rate of trials rising from 13 percent of defendants insisting on a trial to 19 percent. Those studies found no evidence that mandatory minimum sentences had any more crime reduction impact than discretionary sentences. Chief Justice Rhenquist has spoken often and loudly about these wasteful cost increases.
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Unfortunately, the early empirical evidence related to the impact of mandatory minimum sentences associated with Project Exile in Virginia show no better results. Although the proponents of Project Exile tout it as cutting the violent crime rate in Richmond by a substantial margin, the fact is the violent crime rate when down similarly and more in communities all across Virginia that had no Project Exile.
Information compiled by the State indicates that from 1994 to 1998, the violent crime rate went down in Richmond by an impressive 21 percent with Project Exile, but it also went down in areas without Project Exile, like Norfolk down 27 percent, Martinsville down 29 percent, Alexandria down 33 percent, my hometown of Newport News down 37 percent, Arlington down 40 percent and those areas did not have Project Exile.
Another issue is that although sufficient racial bias was not found to warrant a finding of unconstitutional discrimination, a disparate impact on African-Americans was found. In fact, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia noted that in the Richmond area, 90 percent of the individuals prosecuted under the program were African-Americans. That opinion was criticizing Project Exile and was signed by all the members of the court from the Richmond area.
Accordingly, Mr. Chairman, I oppose the use of these costly, ineffective and unfair mandatory minimum sentences in any legislation and certainly in this bill. Given the way that crime has dropped all over Virginia and other places without Project Exile, I think we are safe in sending grants to States and then letting them decide how best to use it to reduce crime.
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In addition, there are other reasons why I oppose the bill. The criteria for a State to receive Federal funding in this bill represents a Washington knows best approach that will allow only a few States to get money from this bill for gun enforcement. As you have indicated only six States would qualify for grant funding at this time.
Even the States that do qualify for the money will only receive a fraction of $100 million over 5 years. Six States, $100 million over 5 years, is clearly a small amount to enforce the gun laws. Furthermore, the money received by the States is not required to be used for gun enforcement and indeed, the grant language is so loose, the money could be used by the States to fund new carpeting in a judge's chambers or exercise equipment for prison guards.
In addition, the bill would allow States that wisely refuse to adopt mandatory minimums to refer all gun cases to Federal prosecutors and Federal courts. This would create the anomaly of rewarding States for referring prosecutions traditionally handled in State court to Federal court so that the cost of the prosecution and incarceration would be borne by the Federal Government and not the State. We would be rewarding them for doing it.
Another reason is what is not in the bill. The bill does not include aid for enforcement of gun laws against the bad apple gun dealers, the 2 percent of all dealers that are responsible for up to half of the guns traced to crime. The bill does not have any money to help fund the ATF, a chronically underfunded agency. Not a penny goes to ballistics testing that can later be used to identify gun criminals from bullets recovered at gun scenes. There is no money for preventive measures or nothing in the bill for preventive measures like child safety locks or Brady background checks.
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In my view, the McCarthy-Conyers Enforce Act, which incorporates the President's enforcement initiative by funding 500 new ATF agents, over 1,000 State and local Federal prosecutors, ballistics testing, and smart gun research would be a preferable way to go. That enforce strategy would be funded with over $280 million in the first year.
It is unfortunate, Mr. Chairman, that bill is not permitted to be included in this hearing.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses in helping us deal with gun crime. I look forward particularly to my colleagues from the State of Virginia.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you very much, Mr. Scott.
I understand a number of our members and a couple of our guests from the other committees would like to make opening statements. I would like to request that in the sense of time, with the special guests we have today, that those statements be summarized. The full text, without objection, will be admitted to the record, but I do want to recognize those members who wish to make statements.
Mr. CHABOT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will be very brief so that we can get to the witnesses.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would first admit that I am not a Virginian, however, I did have the good fortunate to attend college in Virginia, four of the best years of my life when I was a student at the College of William and Mary down at Wiliamsburg, Virginia. So thank you for that great education that I received there.
Too often whenever a senseless crime occurs in this Nation, particularly if it gets a lot of media attention, there has been a knee-jerk reaction by some to pass yet another gun control measure. I think that it would be much more responsible for us to enforce the laws which are already on the books right now which are not being enforced.
A good example would be just a couple of years ago we had 6,000 students, both children and teenagers who actually illegally brought guns to school. That is a Federal crime in this country and has been for some years now.
This administration, however, has only federally prosecuted 17 of those 6,000 offenders. Yet, they are the first to scream that we need more gun control legislation when we are not enforcing the laws on the books right now. There are some things which do work and from everything I have read and heard about Project Exile, it is one of the things that has worked and I want to commend Governor Gilmore and the other Virginia officials, the officials in Richmond and the Justice Department that have been responsible for this.
I am looking forward to hearing the testimony here this afternoon.
I thank the chairman for holding this hearing and yield the balance of my time.
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Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you, Mr. Chabot.
Mr. BARR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I really appreciate these hearings.
As some of our witnesses know, the Governor and the Attorney General from the Commonwealth of Virginia were here before a different subcommittee on which I am honored to serve, the Government Reform Committee, last November, along with the U.S. Attorney from Richmond, other public and private individuals and we had a hearing on Project Exile.
While to some it may seem that this hearing is repetitive, it is not. This is something extremely important to the citizens, not only of Virginia, but to the entire country that we keep emphasizing. That is, we already have laws on the books and if they are used effectively, consistently, aggressively, they will work. It does not require massive new funding, it does not require new laws. It simply requires a commitment as the Governor of Virginia and the Attorney General of Virginia and the other officials have committed themselves.
It is very distressing every time there is a shooting tragedy anywhere in America, that the administration tries to focus attention on gun control rather than on its sorry record of failure to enforce existing laws within the parameters of existing resources and to work cooperatively, as I presume every Governor and every Attorney General would like, and every police chief stands ready, willing and able to work with the administration to do a better job of enforcing the laws on the books. There is no better hedge against continued gun violence in America than strong, consistent, aggressive enforcement of existing laws.
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Project Exile works. There is no reason why it cannot be implemented in every Federal judicial district across this country. Again, Mr. Chairman, as you know, it does not require massive new funding or positions allocated. It simply requires a commitment by the Department of Justice to work with our State and local officials to do so.
I commend your insight, Mr. Chairman, and your persistence in continuing to draw attention to this matter. Hopefully through this hearing and other work of this committee and these public officials, we will finally start to turn around this debate. Once we do, then the rest of the country can enjoy the success that we have seen in Richmond and Virginia because of its commitment to this program.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you, Mr. Barr.
Mr. Conyers, our distinguished ranking member of the full Judiciary Committee has joined us.
Mr. CONYERS. Thank you, Chairman McCollum.
I also join in welcoming the Governor and look forward to his comments.
This moment I have an opportunity to give a few of mine. I thank the Chair for holding the important hearing on the issue of enforcement. We all want enforcement of existing gun laws, but we have to make sure that the laws do what they are supposed to do. Some of our existing laws contain loopholes that the gun lobby inserted into our laws when they couldn't block them altogether.
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I want to require the same background checks at gun shows that we require at gun stores. Some do not want to do this. I want to require that a child safety lock be sold on every handgun. There are some that don't want to do that. We shouldn't be tricked by the false choice that is being presented by opponents of gun safety legislation. They say we should tie our hands and enforce existing gun laws even though one of our hands is tied behind our backs due to the dangerous loopholes that allow criminals to get guns in the first place. We need to enforce existing laws and close loopholes.
We must not be tricked by so-called compromises that weaken current law. These proposals claim to close loopholes but open up a few more loopholes that didn't exist before we closed the ones that we were working on.
These proposals, of course, have never seen the light of day because their proponents, while claiming to support gun safety legislation, refuse to call a gun safety conference to openly debate their compromise proposals. Let us not be distracted by political fig leaves that try to give cover for inaction on closing the gun show loophole.
We keep hearing that the Republican conference chairs will call a gun safety conference meeting any day now. I am waiting anxiously. That check has been in the mail for quite a while, as a matter of fact, since August 5, 1999. The fact is that the proponents of this bill are the very same people who refuse to call a conference meeting on gun safety.
By the way, what is enforcement? Is it a bill that appears to pay lip service to enforcement by only spending $100 million over 5 years; is it a bill that resurrects the discredited idea of revenue-sharing from the Reagan years and would let States spend money on carpeting for a judge's chambers, for exercise equipment for prison guards and other expenses totally unrelated to law enforcement.
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I suggest that this bill, in attempting to create a false choice, may in fact leave us with no choice because it does nothing to further gun safety and nothing to further gun enforcement. By contrast, it takes a couple of members who are lumped into the gun safety camp, to make real progress on enforcement.
For example, our colleague, Carolyn McCarthy and I have introduced the ''Enforce Act,'' a bill that is a serious effort to enforce the existing law. Unlike our bill, this bill does nothing to crack down on the 2 percent of bad apple gun dealers who are responsible for almost half of the guns traced to crimes. Unlike our measure, I am afraid this bill does nothing to provide more resources for 600 new ATF officers and unlike our bill, which contains funding for Federal prosecutors and Exile-type programs, this bill urges Federal prosecution but doesn't provide a dime for Federal prosecutors. So there are bills and there are bills, looks nice on the outside but when you stick your fork into it, it turns out to be filled with mostly air.
Where is the funding for smart technology? Where is funding for improvement of instant check records so that wifebeaters don't get guns? Given this contrast, it is not surprising that the Chair has respectfully declined to make the Enforce Act part of the subject matter of this hearing.
So the fact is sadly, the NRA and its allies in Congress do not really support enforcement. They think every gun law is probably unconstitutional and shouldn't be enforced. They support a program that allows convicted felons to get out of jail and get their guns back. I can only imagine what they would say if the tables were turned and we had introduced the bill.
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So, Mr. Chairman, I hope we can make a serious effort to enforce existing laws and Exile-type programs should be a part of that effort but I hope we can stop playing games with gun safety legislation and call a conference meeting as soon as possible.
Thank you for the time.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you very much, Mr. Conyers.
Mr. GEKAS. I thank the Chair.
The gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Scott, launched into a severe criticism of the mandatory sentencing structures that have been evolving over the last 10 to 15 years and he criticizes them as being costly and that they may do more harm than good. I beg to differ and offer the contrary view.
I remember very well being on the ground floor of the establishment of sentencing guidelines through a sentencing commission in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The first outcry that came for even the attempt to do sentencing guidelines was from the judges who felt this was somehow going to rob them of the discretion that they had from earliest days, and they still are crying about that.
Then when mandatory minimums began to be introduced in Pennsylvania, we heard the same outcry. We learned that the main rationale for the establishment of sentencing guidelines was to reduce disparity of sentences so that someone in Erie, Pennsylvania in a robbery using a gun under the same circumstances as a similar one in Philadelphia, there wouldn't be two different treatments for those crimes. So the sentencing guidelines came into existence, the commission was formed to make sure to reduce that disparity.
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Guess what? When mandatory minimums began to surface, we found there was less disparity possible under mandatory minimums than even under sentencing guidelines, meaning that same case I told you about in Erie and Philadelphia, there would be no question that the same sentence would occur for the individuals involved. So I am a fan of mandatory minimums.
I will concede that I have some trouble with the mandatory minimums as they apply to use and dispensing of controlled substances. That same hesitation I have for that is not how I view the mandatory sentences on the uses of guns in crimes, however. There, I believe we should have a more solid system of mandatory minimums than we even now have with even less disparity of sentences than was originally the goal of mandatory minimums.
I believe that the testimony today on the Richmond experience and what Governor Gilmore might present to us will strengthen the hands of those who might have some question on mandatory minimums not associated with the use of a gun, but to strengthen our resolve to keep in place and use wisely the mandatory minimums when a gun is being used.
I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you, Mr. Gekas.
Mr. WEINER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I won't use all my time.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I look forward to the hearing on the Exile Program. I think it is an example of some really innovative and active crime fighting in the State of Virginia. I think it is also an example of how the Clinton administration took a program that worked and we are now seeing it expanded statewide and perhaps it should be expanded to more jurisdictions if that is appropriate.
Hopefully this hearing will also call attention to how very successful the administration has been in prosecuting gun crimes and putting people in jail for violating gun laws. There has been since 1992 a 22 percent increase in Federal prosecutions of gun cases under the Clinton administration. There have been innovative programs started like the Exile Program.
The result has been a 40 percent increase in the number of gun-related convictions between 1992 and 1996. The average term that a gun offender has been charged with and convicted of and is serving in jail today has increased by about 2 years since the Clinton administration has taken office.
Hopefully as we focus on the Exile Program we also remember that we have the ability in law enforcement and here on this committee to walk and chew gum at the same time. We have the ability to embrace the Exile Program and to see that it is a success, and also recognize that there might be other tools that are necessary to help reduce crime even furtherexpanded background checks, smart gun technology and the like.
I think that as we examine the Exile Program, we should be thinking about ways to continue the track record of success that we have had in the Clinton administration that has seen violent crimes with firearms drop from 565,575 when Mr. Clinton took office to 364,776 in 1998, a dramatic reduction in the most important indicator of whether these anticrime initiatives are having success.
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One of the things I think is clear and we have this debate on various levels in New York City all the time where we have had great success reducing crime is to whom the credit should go. I think this hearing is an opportunity for us to recognize the great work that has been done with Project Exile in Virginia. It is the time to recognize the success of the Clinton administration in its initiatives that gave birth to things like Project Exile, and it is also time for us to think about how it is that we continue some of these successes.
It is one thing to sit and pat ourselves on the back and cheer the successes we have had thus far, but if we are truly interested, as I know the chairman is, in continuing these successes, I believe there are initiatives that the ranking member mentioned that perhaps we should embrace at future hearings.
I thank you for the time.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you very much, Mr. Weiner.
Mr. COBLE. Mr. Chairman, I thank you for staging this hearing and I will not take my 5 minutes.
I will say at the outset that our stature has been enhanced by the presence of our friends from Richmond and Baltimore by the way of the Commerce Committee. I have heard today that we all have opinions and most of these opinions are subject to interpretation. It is my opinion that standing alone, tight, inflexible, rigid gun control laws generally do not result in diminished crime.
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Let me welcome two friends, if I may. I have two committee hearings going on simultaneously with this hearing, so I may not be able to stay here during the entirety. I would like to welcome Mr. Walter Holton, my good friend who serves as the United States Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina which has 24 counties. Walter, it is good to have you here.
Also, Reverend Fails from High Point which is hosting the international furniture market today. Reverend, that may be why you left town, to get away from all those furniture people from all over the world. Reverend Fails, it is good to have you and Mr. Holton here.
Again, Mr. Chairman, thank you for your generosity in permitting each of us to have an opening statement.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. You are quite welcome, Mr. Coble.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you both for introducing H.R. 4051, ''Project Exile: The Safe Streets and Neighborhoods Act of 2000'' and also for holding such an important hearing.
Even as crimes statistics would seem to indicate we should feel safer, national polls continue to document a steady and in some cases, growing fear of crime. We have already enacted thousands of lines of law to stop gun violence, yet more laws are proposed. Our first priority should be enforcing the ones we already have.
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H.R. 4051 is a common sense response to crime in our country. Rather than proposing more gun control, the bill proposes resources to States that aggressively enforce their laws, ensuring that criminals who use guns when committing crimes are in fact punished.
A number of States across the country have instituted an Exile Program and have experienced a drop in many crimes. Virginia, where Project Exile began, has experienced dramatic drops in crime rates. Since 1997, the overall number of violent crimes has dropped by 35 percent.
In my own State of Texas, Texas Exile was announced last September. The Attorney General's office received a $1.6 million grant from Governor Bush's Criminal Justice Division to fund prosecutions around the State and to fund prosecutors who worked with U.S. and District Attorneys to prosecute cases where convicted felons are caught with illegal guns. Based on preliminary reviews, it seems that Texas could be one of the six States that qualify for assistance under this legislation.
To date 115 indictments have been returned and 630 guns have been taken off the street as a result of Texas Exile. Later today we will hear testimony from Michael McCaul, the Special Assistant to the Attorney General, who will elaborate further on Texas' experience.
Mr. Chairman, again, thank you for the hearing and I look forward to supporting your bill.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you very much, Mr. Smith.
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We have two special guests today with us who have been recognized sort of indirectly by a couple of colleagues. I want to welcome them. Without objection, if either of you wishes to make comments, I certainly will let you make them.
Mr. Bliley is chairman of our Commerce Committee, a former mayor of Richmond as I recall, and my classmate in the class of 1980. We are delighted to have you join us here, Mr. Bliley, if you would like an opening comment.
Mr. BLILEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for allowing me the opportunity to join this distinguished subcommittee to examine a program that has been extremely successful in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia, Project Exile.
Crime is a serious problem and it affects every member of society. Until Project Exile, the people in Richmond were afraid to leave their homes at night, parts of Richmond had been taken over by guntoting criminals, and Richmond had one of the highest murder rates in the world.
Then in 1997, Project Exile started. The turnaround since then has been remarkable. In three short years, homicides have dropped by 46 percent; crimes involving guns have dropped a remarkable 65 percent; aggravated assaults fell 39 percent and violent crimes have fallen 35 percent.
The citizens of Richmond are taking back our city. They did this by letting the criminals know that if they use a gun illegally, they are going to prison. It is for this reason that I support expanding this programa program that stops crimeand to exporting it to the rest of the country.
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Project Exile saves lives and protects families and their children from the destructive and deadly acts of violent criminals. If you doubt me, then I invite you to drive down to Richmond, talk to our police, businessowners, religious leaders and the hardworking citizens of Richmond. You will quickly see the positive impact that Project Exile has had on Richmond.
As an original co-sponsor of this legislation, I look forward to the day that people will be protected by this effective program that saves lives.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you very much, Mr. Bliley.
Mr. Ehrlich of Maryland is here with us today, an original co-sponsor of this bill. We are delighted to have you join us. If you have an opening remark, please proceed.
Mr EHRLICH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I have a statement for the record.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Ehrlich follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF ROBERT L. EHRLICH, JR., A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MARYLAND
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Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity to join you and other members of the Crime Subcommittee today to hear testimony on H.R. 4051, ''Project Exile: The Safe Streets and Neighborhoods Act of 2000.'' Mr. Chairman, I applaud your leadership in combating armed, violent criminals through the common sense approach of ensuring vigorous prosecution of these criminals.
Project Exile is a proven crime fighting initiative. In states and communities around the country where aggressive prosecution of gun crimes has been coupled with tough prison sentences, violent crime has gone down. These programs, better known as ''Project Exile,'' simply enforce existing laws. Convicted criminals caught carrying guns are prosecuted and sentenced to mandatory minimum, no-parole prison terms. Likewise, bail is routinely denied after their arrest; there are no plea bargains; there are no exceptions.
As Governor Gilmore will attest, Project Exile yields significant results. For example, the people who run Project Exile in Virginiastate, local and federal officials, police officers, prosecutors, judgesall talk about the cultural change on the streets of Richmond. They often refer to the ''cost-benefit analysis'' criminals must face when deciding whether or not to place their guns in their pockets. In Richmond, the cost of carrying a gun always exceeds the benefits, and the criminals know it. That is why their murder and violent crime rates have dropped by almost 50 percent over the past two years.
Sadly, in Maryland, the opposite occurs: the cost of carrying a gun rarely exceeds the benefits. Accordingly, there are far too many illegal guns on the streets of Baltimore. Shootouts are a daily routine. The facts speak for themselves. The murder rate in Baltimore has increased 7.1 percent in the past five years. Since 1992, over 2600 people have been murdered in Baltimore City alone.
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Maryland has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. Why, then, will hundreds of victims be shot and killed again this year on the streets of Baltimore? The answer, in large part, is because convicted criminals are routinely allowed to return to the streets where they commit these very same crimes all over again.
Over the past year and a half, I have been advocating the implementation of Project Exile in Maryland. Surprisingly, I have encountered persistent resistance from the U.S. Attorney for Maryland in establishing this program. I am convinced Project Exile would decrease the crime rate in Maryland, and make our streets and neighborhoods safe again.
Despite opposition, I remain committed to bringing this proven anti-crime program to Maryland. That is why I am an original co-sponsor of H.R. 4051, ''Project Exile: The Safe Streets and Neighborhoods Act of 2000''. This legislation will help Maryland and other states achieve this goal.
Mr. Chairman, I look forward to working with you and members of this committee in passing this common-sense legislation. H.R. 4051 will enable states to implement programs that ensure tough prison time for criminals who use guns and make our neighborhoods and communities safer.
Mr. EHRLICH. Real briefly, it is always a pleasure to sit next to my chairman, by the way.
This is my second time with Governor Gilmore today. I had an opportunity to hear him at 10 a.m. on Internet taxation and he was great, and on Project Exile. I have forged a great relationship with both him and his staff with respect to this issue. I have no pride of authorship. A couple of years ago a former Baltimore County detective on my staff came into my office and said, look, you are always complaining about people talking by one another and gun control, pro-gun, anti-gun, handgun control, NRA, nobody gets anything done. Well, there is a program in Richmond that has started and the Governor is down there talking about it and we need to look at it. We looked at it.
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We took a bi-partisan group of legislators, NAACP, the Baltimore business community and the media from Baltimore to Richmond last year and the Governor and his staff treated us wonderfully.
What struck me about this program was two things. First, how ego became irrelevant, given the numbers in Richmond just a few short years ago, the fact that kids had to sleep in bathtubs because of the bullets flying in the City of Richmond. The ability of the U.S. Attorney and the local prosecutors, the Governor and the Attorney General, and the private sector to work together, to come together to make Richmond and now Virginia and now the rest of the country safer, I have no pride of authorship. I am trying to embarrass the establishment in the State of Maryland into adopting Project Exile.
Governor Gilmore has made his staff and resources available to me and I sincerely appreciate it.
Finally, the most unique part of this program besides the level of cooperation, lack of ego I have seen in the State of Virginia, is the ability of the private sector to help itself, to fund the publicity and the communications effort that goes with Project Exile, to educate that narrow class of people who tend to shoot other people, and to the extent we take more of those folks off the street, we have safer streets. That is common sense. The numbers speak for themselves and I am really proud to be here today with my friend, the Governor. Many of us in Maryland wish we could adopt him as our Governor.
I yield back.
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Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you very much, Mr. Ehrlich.
Now I believe we have given every member an opportunity to make a remark. I would like to introduce our first witnesses.
Our first panel of witnesses consists of one person. We have heard a lot about him already, but we would like to have the Honorable Jim Gilmore, Governor of Virginia, join us if you would at the table.
A native Virginian, Mr. Gilmore was elected Governor in November 1997, after a solid record of crime fighting had already been earned as the Commonwealth's Attorney for Henrico County. After which, Governor Gilmore was elected as Virginia's Attorney General in 1993. As Governor, he continues his outstanding public safety record by leading the Nation in numerous reforms, such as abolition of parole, Juvenile Justice reform, and Three Strikes and You Are Out Program.
Under his leadership, Virginia became the first State in the Nation to implement a statewide version of Project Exile, and established the Governor's new partnership, the Commission for Community Safety. This Commission will focus on combating community-related crime problems such as drugs, gangs and school violence.
You are certainly very welcome today, Governor Gilmore, but I understand your two Virginians want at least a word or two. Mr. Bliley, you are once more recognized to just say howdy to your Governor.
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Mr. BLILEY. I am always glad to see my Governor. He and I go back 20 years when I first ran for Congress, he was supporter. Then I felt I had him on retainer because my son shortly thereafter turned 16 and the Governor was a lawyer who represented me in various juvenile courts around Richmond with my son's driving. Those of you who have teenage sons know a lot about that.
I was able to help him, I hope, when he first ran for Commonwealth's Attorney of Henrico. He did such an outstanding job, when it was time to run again, he was unopposed. He was elected Attorney General when many thought he couldn't and went on to be elected Governor when the Washington Post had him buried in the polls in June and he won going away. He has been a fine Governor, a great friend and I thank you for the opportunity to sit with this panel today and welcome him.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. You are most welcome, Mr. Bliley.
Mr. Scott, do you want to make a welcoming remark?
Mr. SCOTT. I want to join my colleague from Richmond in welcoming the distinguished Governor from the Commonwealth of Virginia. We look forward to his testimony. It is great to have such a distinguished witness with us today.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you, Mr. Scott.
Mr. Gilmore, you are now recognized. Your testimony in total will be submitted to the record, without objection. I hear none and you may give us a summary in whatever fashion you wish.
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STATEMENT OF HON. JIM GILMORE, GOVERNOR OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
Mr. GILMORE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I can't live up to all those kind introductions but I appreciate them nonetheless.
Thank you for having this important hearing today on what I believe will be a key piece of legislation for the United States Congress. I appreciate your leadership on this. I certainly appreciate the friendship of my friend, Tom Bliley, who never fails to violate the attorney-client privilege for some reason but he has been my mentor for many years. I am very proud of his friendship and his leadership.
Bob Ehrlich is a good friend and I believe probably, if not the best, one of the best elected officials in the State of Maryland. Bob, thank you very much for what you do for all Americans everywhere by your leadership in Congress.
I am pleased to be here today, particularly with my colleague, the Attorney General of Virginia who I work with each and every day hand and glove in order to protect the lives and property of the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia. I am glad he is here to address you in a later panel.
I want to thank Bobby Scott for his friendship and his leadership in Virginia. Together with all the other members of this panel who are here, believe me, the citizens of your respective States appreciate you more than maybe you hear all the time. We want to thank you very much.
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It is my pleasure to be here today to lend my support to H.R. 4051, ''Project Exile: The Safe Streets and Neighborhoods Act of 2000.'' I think you will find once this measure becomes law, communities across the Nation will quickly realize how valuable Exile can be in assisting them in breaking the link between guns and drugs and violent crime.
That has been my experience in Virginia because of our own Virginia Exile. I regard it as one of the most important public safety initiatives to ever become law in the Commonwealth of Virginia. That is saying a great deal because we have accomplished a great deal in the last several years in anticrime legislation.
Virginia Exile is the first statewide program of its kind in the Nation. It became law on July 1, 1999 and follows up on several criminal justice reforms we have made in Virginia in recent years since the abolition of parole, establishing truth in sentencing, major changes in our juvenile justice system and most recently, my substance abuse reduction effort, which we call SABRE.
Thanks to these reforms, murders, rapists and robbers are spending more time behind bars instead on preying on law-abiding citizens. Virginia's violent crime rates are now at their lowest in nearly a quarter century. Virginia Exile is an effective and excellent enhancement of these reforms. Virginia Exile also enhances the sovereignty of the State in prosecuting gun crimes and relieving it of the need to refer cases to the Federal courts.
Let me take a few minutes to tell you how Virginia Exile works. From that, I think you will get a good snapshot of how the States and their communities, police and prosecutors can use Exile to remove gunwielding criminals from our streets and our neighborhoods.
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Virginia Exile is about as simple as A, B, C. Its penalties are consistent with, and in some cases tougher than, Federal law. It sets a 5-year mandatory, minimum sentence. In particular, Virginia Exile targets anyone who: has a prior conviction for a violent felony such as murder, rape, robbery, assault, certain kinds of burglaries, and is convicted of possessing a firearm. Clearly, these are the kinds of people who should not be carrying guns.
Next is a person who is convicted of possessing an illegal drug such as cocaine or heroin, for possessing more than a pound of marijuana with the intent to sell, and has a firearm, or is convicted of possessing a firearm on school property with the intent to use it or displaying the weapon in a threatening manner. So we have set aside the three critical places where we have conduct of individuals out there that we want to stop from doing bad things. We are focusing our attention on criminals and criminals who would use guns.
Virginia also says anyone who possesses a firearm and has a prior conviction for a nonviolent felony, such as a larceny, a drug possession, will be exiled for 2 years, in addition to any other sentence imposed. In addition, Virginia Exile applies more stringent criteria for bail by establishing a rebuttable presumption for the denial of bail in such cases. This aspect of Virginia Exile and its Federal counterpart is often overlooked, but it is the key to an effort to keep the criminals off the streets, pending trial.
Virginia Exile builds upon the remarkable success of the Federal Project Exile Pilot Program, the Federal pilot project started in Richmond in 1997 by the United States Attorney in cooperation with State and local officials.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Aggressive enforcement and prosecution of Project Exile has played a major role in the reduction of murders and violent crime in general in Richmond. Last year, there were 74 murders in Richmond, down from 94 murders in 1998 and 139 murders in 1997 in Richmond.
I applaud Richmond Police Chief Jerry Oliver, Richmond Commonwealth Attorney David Hicks, and the Richmond Office of the United States Attorney for making Project Exile so successful. They were dedicated and committed to it and we have seen good results which has saved a lot of victims.
We hear stories all the time about street thugs that are abandoning the use of a gun for fear of a minimum sentence of 5 years. Richmond police now believe that the gun carry rate is down about 20 to 30 percent from three or 4 years ago. Let me give you a quick story if I could about one violent, high profile gang in the Richmond area which will make the point.
The gang called themselves the Dogg Pound. They were alleged to have committed numerous murders and amassed an abundant arsenal of guns over a 10-year period dating back to the 1980's.
There was a young boy who hung with this group who eventually turned informant and recently gave a detailed account of drug transactions to police. At one point, the police officer asked him, what about guns. The boy's response was no, man, 5 years. So the word is getting out and it is making a difference in the conduct of criminals. That is exactly the message that we are spreading under Virginia Exile, the message that Virginia is serious about enforcement is going out to every community across the Commonwealth, not just to those who have a local Federal program. We have run television specials, put up the billboards, put up road signs at every major entrance to the State and continue to work with local and State law enforcement groups to help them spread the word.
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In fact, if you go over the Key Bridge into the Commonwealth of Virginia, you will see one of these signs right there to remind people that when you come to Virginia, if you use a gun in the commission of a violent felony, you are felon and you will get 5 years gone. It is a good reminder.
In fact, today I am announcing we have even launched the Virginia Exile website which is demonstrated here on cards, www.virginiaexile.com so that people can learn and hear about this and the more the word is spread in the communities, the better it is.
Virginia Exile deserves its fair credit for reducing gun crime in Richmond. Virginia Exile took the next step by providing a means for communities across the Commonwealth to go after gun-wielding criminals through tougher State gun laws.
H.R. 4051 would give all States an incentive to follow the Virginia Exile model. We, the States, should make our own laws as tough or even tougher than the Federal laws to enhance the safety of our own citizens.
We need to work together at all levels of government to go after gun-wielding criminals. It is in the best interest of our citizens, our community and our country. It is for that reason that I proposed legislation to the 1999 General Assembly to strengthen our gun laws to make it clear that guns and felons, and guns and drugs and guns in schools just don't mix. If you violate these laws of Virginia, you face a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years, exiled far from home in one of Virginia's more remote prisons.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Under Virginia Exile, our State prosecutors have two ways to enforce charges dealing with illegal guns depending on the accompanying charges and what courts may offer tougher sentencing for the particular case. Now they have the option to prosecute in either State or Federal court. I must say that our Federal courts have made it clear that they are glad to have the help in State laws across the country that allow them to relieve the burden of prosecuting each gun case.
As a way to ease the financial pressure some localities may feel as they aggressive prosecute exile cases, I have established a $1 million grant program. Twenty cities and counties were eligible to apply for these grants based on the number of exile crimes committed in those areas in 1997. Six localities were awarded grantsRichmond, Petersburg, Chesapeake, Lynchburg, Roanoke and Halifax County.
These grants require the communities to use the money to hire a full-time prosecutor and an assistant, pay overtime for specialized police enforcement efforts, and to buy equipment. They require an active partnership between local, State and Federal agencies. This is the approach that worked so effectively on the Richmond model.
Getting these violent criminals off our streets certainly is the most important public safety element in Exile, but don't underestimate the deterrent value of an aggressive, well orchestrated, public awareness campaign. The reaction of the young boy in this Dogg Pound case I mentioned underscores that fact. We seek to deter too. Making sure the word gets out is a critical component of any Exile program, particularly around the communities most troubled by violent crime.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In Richmond, the Project Exile Foundation was established to raise money to fund the outreach effort and it has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for television commercials and city buses painted with the Exile message and billboards and pamphlets and radio spots. Richmond officials have noticed a correlation between the intensity of the media campaign and the lower gun carry rate.
Under the Virginia Exile, we require each community that receives grant money to establish a local foundation for the same purpose. These foundations will complement the efforts of our statewide organization.
Exile is an important public safety tool, one that I think is essential to stopping violent criminal behavior. It is working very well in Virginia and is now being handled in the most appropriate venue which is the State courts. It encourages every State to strengthen its laws to lock up violent criminals in their own State, which is ultimately where sentencing for these crimes should occur.
I appreciate the knowledge that many will come to Virginia to assist us in our efforts to make our State one of the most safe in the country. So I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to let you know how we are using Virginia Exile to make the Commonwealth a safer place for all of our citizens.
Thank you for H.R. 4051, Mr. Chairman, the ''Safe Streets and Neighborhoods Act of 2000, Project Exile.'' I think it will be an important law enforcement tool at the State and local levels across our Nation.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Governor Gilmore follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. JIM GILMORE, GOVERNOR OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
It is my pleasure to be here today to lend my support to HR 4051, Project Exile: The Safe Streets and Neighborhoods Act of 2000.
I believe you will find that once this measure becomes law, communities across the nation will quickly realize how valuable Exile can be in assisting them in breaking the link between guns, drugs and violent crime.
That has been my experience in Virginia, because of our own Virginia Exile. I regard it as one of the most important public safety initiatives ever to become law in the Commonwealth. Virginia Exile is the first statewide program of its kind in the nation. It became law on July 1, 1999 and follows up on several criminal justice reforms we have made in Virginia in recent years, such as the abolition of parole, establishing truth-in-sentencing, major changes in our juvenile justice system, and most recently, my substance abuse reduction effort, or SABRE.
Thanks to these reforms, murderers, rapists, and robbers are spending more time behind bars instead of preying on law-abiding citizens. Virginia's violent crime rates are now at their lowest in nearly a quarter-century. Virginia Exile is an effective and excellent enhancement to these reforms.
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Virginia Exile also enhances the sovereignty of the state in prosecuting gun crimes, relieving it of the need to refer cases to federal courts.
Let me take a few minutes to tell you how Virginia Exile works. From that, I think you will get a good snapshot of how the states and their communities' police and prosecutors can use Exile to remove gun-wielding criminals from our streets and neighborhoods.
Virginia Exile is as simple as ABC. Its penalties are consistent with and, in some cases, tougher than, federal law. It sets a five year mandatory minimum sentence. In particular, Virginia Exile targets anyone who:
A. Has a prior conviction for a violent felony such as murder, rape, robbery, assault or certain types of burglaryand is convicted of possessing a firearm; or
B. Is convicted of possessing an illegal drug such as cocaine or heroin, or possessing more than a pound of marijuana with the intent to selland a firearm; or
C. Is convicted of possessing a firearm on school property with the intent to use it, or displaying the weapon in a threatening manner.
Virginia Exile also says anyone who possesses a firearm and has a prior conviction for a non-violent felonysuch as larceny or drug possessionwill be exiled for two years in addition to any other sentence imposed.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In addition, Virginia Exile applies more stringent criteria for bail by establishing a rebuttal presumption for the denial of bail in such cases. This aspect of both Virginia Exile and its federal counterpart is often overlooked. It is the key, however, to any effort to keep these criminals off the streets pending trial.
Virginia Exile builds upon the remarkable success of the federal Project Exile pilot program, started in Richmond in 1997 by the U.S. Attorney in cooperation with local and state officials.
Aggressive enforcement and prosecution of Project Exile has played a major role in the reduction of murders and violent crime in general in Richmond. Last year, there were 74 murders in Richmond, down from 94 murders in 1998 and 139 murders in 1997.
I applaud Richmond Police Jerry Oliver, Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney David Hicks and the Richmond Office of the U.S. Attorney for making Project Exile so successful.
We hear stories all the time about street thugs abandoning the use of a gun for fear of a minimum sentence of five years. Richmond police now believe the gun carry-rate is down about 20 percent to 30 percent from three or four years ago.
A quick story about one violent, high profile gang in the Richmond area makes this point. The gang called themselves the ''Dogg Pound.'' They were alleged to have committed numerous murders and amassed an abundant arsenal of guns over a 10-year period dating to the mid-1980s.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC A young boy, who hung with the group and eventually turned informant, was recently giving a detailed account of drug transactions to police. At one point the police officer asked him, ''What about guns?'' The boy's reply was, ''No, man. Five years.''
That is precisely the message we are spreading under Virginia Exile. The message that Virginia is serious about enforcement is going out to every community across the Commonwealth, not just to those that have a local-federal program. We have run television specials, put up billboards, put road signs at every major entrance to the state, and continue to work with local and state law enforcement groups to help them spread the word.
In fact, today I am announcing that we have launched the Virginia Exile web site at www.virginiaexile.com.
Project Exile deserves its fair credit for reducing gun crime in Richmond. Virginia Exile took the next step by providing a means for communities across the Commonwealth to go after gun-wielding criminals through tougher state gun laws. Now, HR4051 would give all states an incentive to follow the Virginia Exile model. Wethe statesshould make our own laws as tough asor even tougher thanthe federal laws to enhance the safety of our own citizens. We need to work together at all levels of government to go after gun wielding criminals. It's in the best interest of our citizens, our communities and our country.
It is for that reason that I proposed legislation to the 1999 General Assembly to strengthen our state lawsto make it clear that guns and felons, guns and drugs, and guns and schools do not mix. Violate these laws in Virginia and you face a mandatory minimum sentence of five years ''exiled'' far from home in one of Virginia's more remote prisons.
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Under Virginia Exile our state prosecutors have two ways to enforce charges dealing with illegal guns. Depending on the accompanying charges and which court may offer tougher sentencing for the particular case, they now have the option to prosecute in either state or federal court.
As a way to ease the financial pressure that some localities may feel as they aggressively prosecute Exile cases, I established a $1 million grant program. Twenty cities and counties were eligible to apply for Virginia Exile grants, based on the number of Exile-related crimes committed in those areas in 1997. Six localities were awarded grantsRichmond, Petersburg, Chesapeake, Lynchburg, Roanoke and Halifax County.
Virginia Exile grants require communities to use the money to hire a full-time prosecutor and an assistant, pay overtime for specialized police enforcement efforts, and to buy equipment. They also require an active partnership between local, state and federal agencies, an approach that is working so effectively in the Richmond model.
Getting these violent criminals off our streets certainly is the most important public safety element of Exile, but please do not underestimate the deterrent value of an aggressive, well-orchestrated public awareness campaign. The reaction of the young boy in the ''Dogg Pound'' case I mentioned earlier underscores this point.
Making sure the word gets out is a critical component of any Exile programparticularly around those communities most troubled by violent crime. In Richmond, the Project Exile Foundation was established to raise private money to fund the outreach effort. It has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for television commercials, city buses painted with the Exile message, billboards, pamphlets and radio spots. Richmond officials have noted a correlation between the intensity of its Exile media campaign and the lower gun carry-rate.
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Under Virginia Exile we require each community that receives grant money to establish a local foundation for the same purpose. These local foundations will compliment the efforts of our statewide organizationthe Virginia Exile Foundationin getting the message out that Virginia is serious about prosecuting these cases. Richmond's Project Exile, for example, has been very successful in obtaining pro-bono advertising services from such groups as the Martin Agency, and generous donations from, among others, the Greater Richmond Retail Merchants Association.
Exile is an important public safety tool, one that I believe is essential to stopping violent criminal behavior. It is working very well in Virginia, and is now being handled in the more appropriate venuestate court. That is why I believe HR 4051 is an outstanding initiative. It encourages every state to strengthen its laws to lock up violent criminals in their own state, which is ultimately where sentencing for these crimes should occur.
I appreciate the knowledge that money will come to Virginia to assist us in our effort to make our state among the safest in the country.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to let you know how we' are using Virginia Exile to make the Commonwealth a safer place for all our citizens.
Thank you, also, for H.R. 4051, Project Exile: The Safe Streets and Neighborhoods Act of 2000. It will be an important and valuable law enforcement tool at the state and local levels across our nation.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you, Governor Gilmore. Thank you for giving us a model to follow in all you have done. I am going to recognize myself for 5 minutes to ask a few questions and maybe some of the other members would like to ask as well.
I am curious to know why Virginia Exile focuses on the specific crimes or offenses that it doesdrugs, felons, in school and so forth?
Mr. GILMORE. Because they are the policy priority that we have set. It is the conduct that we want to deter the most, it is the ones that we want to punish the most. We just made a value judgment as public officials, as crime enforcement people that we were going to draw a tough line against people who are felons and say you are not supposed to have a gun. That is the law and if you do, we are getting you out of the community.
People who carry guns onto school property, people who have narcotics, these are the pieces of conduct that we want to draw the strongest line on. I think the most direct answer is we want them out of there, we want them out of the community. We want them free from the streets so that people on the street do not have to live in fear and terror. The goal here in Virginia is to have the freest possible society for our individual law-abiding citizens and this is the best way to get these folks out of there and into a penitentiary where they belong.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Everytime I engage in a discussion about a minimum mandatory sentence, somebody asks me how expensive it is, so I thought I would ask you. I frequently defend minimum mandatories, but I know that there is some expense involved, at least in dollars and cents, to the State of Virginia, I am sure.
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Mr. GILMORE. I guess we could run a statistical study on it and get back to you but my sense of things is we are saving a lot of money. What is happening isbelieve I know, I was an elected prosector in one of the biggest counties in Virginia for 6 years before I became the Attorney General of the State and the challenge we were seeing from the police and career prosecutors was where we kept seeing the same people over and over again because they would get paroled very quickly and be back on the street, hurt another victim, you have the cost associated with that victim going to a hospital and having to be treated, the loss of work, the loss of a mother or father, the human losses and you are not getting that anymore because the same people are now being taken away so they are not committing multiple crimes. That is a saving, a financial saving but it is a human value saving as well.
By the way, we are not putting as many people in prison as we expected because the word is on the street and it is having a deterrent value.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. What level of bi-partisan support has this gotten in Virginia?
Mr. GILMORE. It has gotten good bipartisan support. This is not a partisan matter. This is a bipartisan matter. Both parties want to protect their citizens by getting career criminals and chronic criminals off the streets. How could we want to do anything less. It is liberating for the people in our constituencies.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you and thank you again for being here.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Scott?
Mr. SCOTT. Governor, do I understand that you could do a cost study to determine how much this costs?
Mr. GILMORE. It would be tough but we could take a stab at it and I will take a try to see what the savings are. It is hard to do because often you see savings are victims that don't occur. The difficulty in dealing with policy issues in terms of crime is you are trying to succeed and if you succeed, then you don't have the statistical evidence because it never occurs. Again, the objective here is to save peoples' lives, not just build up statistics but we will see what we can come up with for you.
Mr. SCOTT. The crime rate has been going down all over Virginia, is that right?
Mr. GILMORE. It has.
Mr. SCOTT. Not just in areas with Project Exile?
Mr. GILMORE. It has and I will tell you why. I think it is very clear, and I entered this whole process 14 or 15 years ago when I was elected Commonwealth Attorney. Before that, I was defense counsel and in the courts all the time. It was clear that it was just a revolving door. That was what was really going on.
Now, of course, we have a multiple set of reforms we have done which, by the way, were strongly opposedparole abolition and other areas of protecting the communitiesas a result violent crime is starting to come down. I am very proud of that. This is one more step in the right direction.
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Mr. SCOTT. If you have Project Exile in one area and not in another and the crime rate went down in both jurisdictions?
Mr. GILMORE. I think the Attorney General is going to address that. I believe the area that Project Exile is designed to focus on is homicides with guns. On that, I think there has been a distinct difference. In any case, we want to see violent crime go down, guns or no guns, and that protects our citizens.
Mr. SCOTT. Several years ago, Virginia was one of the worst States in gun trafficking crimes. We passed one gun a month. Has that had an effect on Virginia being a source of gun trafficking?
Mr. GILMORE. I can't answer that. I think the Federal officials would probably tell you that it has but I don't know. In any case, it was always directed toward out of State crime, that law, in order to help people in other parts of the country.
Mr. SCOTT. Thank you, Governor.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Mr. Chabot?
Mr. CHABOT. Governor, I also wanted to mention that I have a number of folks on my staff that are Virginians and they were particularly grateful to you in one of the campaign promises you made before you were elected about getting rid of the odious car tax. You said you were going to get rid of it and you got rid of it and they speak of you in almost reverential terms. They compare you to another former great Virginia Governor, Patrick Henry. You have a lot of fans in our office. They are very grateful for that.
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I like just about everything I have heard about this program. The only thing that I, as a pretty conservative lawmaker struggle a little bit with is that generally we sort of look at crime for the most part as being a local concern rather than a Federal concern. That is the only real issue that I have in my mind about this program.
Could you kind of address that, the idea that we are federally prosecuting something that is also a local crime and local law enforcement would probably have the primary responsibility for that whole concept, if you would Governor?
Mr. GILMORE. There is no doubt that local crime conducted within States is typically within the purview of the State courts. There is no doubt about that. I think the creative that the Federal Government is doing with this legislation and it did with its pilot programs was created a partnership in order to bring assets to bear. I think that is a big help. There is a lot of money out here in the Federal budget, just tons of it. To make some of it available to protect the communities through these kinds of grants in order to assist within a partnership of State and Federal people is certainly an appropriate expenditure of money. I think this program will be very helpful. I think that is a good role for the Feds to play.
I don't think it is necessarily that we want to take all local crime and throw it into the Federal Courts. I don't think that is what you want to do and this bill I think addresses that appropriately.
Mr. CHABOT. Secondly, relative to the sentence, when a defendant has a 5-year sentence out there staring him in the face because he has had possession of a gun, do you see fewer incidences where they are pleading out so perhaps you have more trials and more people going to court, maybe additional costs in that area? Have you seen any evidence of that?
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Mr. GILMORE. I don't think so. I think the costs are exaggerated, both in actuality but in terms of value. Government does a lot of things it probably ought not to be doing. One thing it ought to be doing is enforcing the criminal laws in order to protect people from getting hurt out there, and victims from being created.
I don't think we have any statistical evidence that shows more people are going to trial, but I do think that the word is getting out there. As a result, we may have fewer trials. The same people are not coming back over and over again. That reduces trials. To the point that we incarcerate people who hurt others with guns, that is money well spent.
Mr. CHABOT. Finally, what has been the response from other jurisdictions as far as using Virginia as a model and implementing similar programs within their jurisdictions?
Mr. GILMORE. It has been good. We have a number of States who have expressed interest in the Virginia model. Once again, the Richmond model is a proven pilot project that I think has demonstrated the success of the project.
Right now, we have received inquiries from Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Utah, New Mexico, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York. That isn't to say all these States will implement this program but they have expressed an interest in it because of its success.
Mr. CHABOT. I have to talk to my folks back in Ohio too.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I yield the balance of my time.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Mr Weiner?
Mr. WEINER. I want to thank you, Governor. Your testimony was refreshing. We have been in kind of a false debate around here for some time over the notion of is a reduction in prosecutions at the Federal level, but an increase in the State a good thing; is the reduction in State prosecutions and an increase in Federal a good thing; and I think your experience shows how when we get past some of the rhetoric, when the rubber hits the road, yours is an example of an U.S. Attorney appointed by a Democratic administration coming up with a pilot program. You were a Republican Governor taking that pilot program expanding it statewide and now having an opportunity to see if there are ways fairly to extend it nationwide.
In fact, in your testimony in a side bar, you mention that you were glad to have the help from the Federal authorities in prosecuting some of these cases and in answer to a previous question, you said, ''You know, for the most part, this is a State responsibility.''
That is why I think that overall, we should approach these programs here in Washington with a similar sense, that we should facilitate wherever possible you folks on the local level passing your local laws that are most helpful and where Federal prosecutions can be of help, we should pursue those Federal prosecutions. If you need Federal help to support State and location prosecutions, we should provide that help as well.
Perhaps we can finally get out of this loop that some folks here in Washington seem to be in accusing the Justice Department of laying down on the job because perhaps there are more State prosecutions. I think you deserve a lot of credit in recognizing that the Richmond pilot was a good one.
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One of the things that we do in this bill is we essentially say to States, mine included, we want you to come up with the same sentence guidelines that Virginia has to be eligible for this Federal program. As an executive and as a Governor of a State that makes his living knowing what the State's people want, dealing with legislatures and finding out ways to find consensus in the legislature to try to sometimes get half a loaf, not everything you want, how do you respond to the overall idea of legislation coming from this House that says here is the money to go do a good thing, but here is a list of things we want you to get through your legislature regardless of your support for those individual things before you are eligible for that money? Wouldn't you, on some level, always prefer more flexibility rather than less?
Mr. GILMORE. That is an interesting legislative policy question which I would not presume to substitute my judgment for. I have several thoughts.
The States are implementing programs like this, we should. States should be encouraged to do it. This legislation does that and I think that is very helpful.
To the extent that this Congress meets and discusses those criteria and makes a decision as to what criteria they might wish to offer to the States, I think that is an appropriate role of the House of Representatives and the United States Senate. To the extent we can do that, that would be fine.
I think my anxiety would be perhaps that some States would not approach this in as constructive a way and the Congress can give them a nudge in the right direction. Naturally, flexibility at the States is always desirable but you have to be the steward of Federal money or the peoples' money that is called Federal anyway.
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Mr. WEINER. Thank you.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Mr. Gekas, you are recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. GEKAS. I thank the Chair.
Governor, I hope to see you some time soon in another forum because the committee which I chair, a sister committee of the current one, the one convened here, is interested in Internet taxation. We have that jurisdiction and we need to come to a decision on some of these issues.
I know that the strength of your testimony on this issue will be duplicated when you testify before that committee. Back to this committee.
The question of mandatory minimums in the past has produced some other kinds of phenomena that I don't know whether they have brought about similar consequences in your current Exile Program. That is this, charge bargaining. Is there any pattern that you have discerned where the prosecutor in the case, knowing there is a 5-year minimum staring the defendant in the face, but knows if he pursues that, it will be a jury trial and perhaps questionable in its evidence, and the defense attorney fearful that going to a plea is going to end up in a 5-year minimum, is there an agreement forthcoming between the prosecutor and the defense attorney for a lesser charge plea of guilty? Are we seeing phenomena of that sort?
Mr. GILMORE. Some. Again, I prosecuted for 6 years. The system does still have a great deal of discretion within it for prosecutors and defense counsel and so on. There is still a great deal of that prior to going to trial. Most of these I think are pleading out and they are pleading out somewhere between the 2 and 5 year range with some alteration potentially of the charge.
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The key is that the policy direction that the legislature is giving to prosecutors and to the courts that we are serious about people who commit these kinds of gun crimes, that we want them out of the community. I can't sit here and tell you that nobody ever does any plea bargains because if you are going to lose a case, sometimes you go ahead and do a plea bargain, but there is no reason to plea bargain if you have the case. If you have the case, then we have the tool with legislation like this to get somebody off the streets for 5 years and out of the community. Is that responsive?
Mr. GEKAS. I think so. I think what I wanted to hear from you is implied in your statement, that the pressure applied by the program works to the benefit of the Commonwealth of Virginia because the defense attorney is willing, even in a charge bargain or a plea bargain, to recognize that there is going to be jail time, exile time for that defendant. So even if it doesn't reach the minimum maximum minimum, still justice is being done because we are putting that individual out of the way.
That is the way I looked at it, that it is not a detriment to the policy that charge bargaining can occur but actually it is another facility of the program?
Mr. GILMORE. It does. It certainly means that a policy for the State is set, that people who commit these gun crimes have to not come back out on the street, but they have to go out of the community. It is sort of a commitment we are making with the communities to make them safer. Yes, I believe you are seeing that policy effectuated.
Mr. GEKAS. The only danger I see in thatthis goes back to my original statementI am an advocate of trying to do everything we can to reduce disparity of sentences and to the extent that future statistics will show that even in your program, some charge bargaining or guilty plea bargaining has occurred under the mantra of the 5-year program you have had, if there are instances wholesale of disparity of sentencing, we may have to revisit the program. I think we start off with reducing disparity of sentencing.
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Mr. GILMORE. I think that is right. Let me say as I was trying to say earlier, there is disparity within the system. The looser the statutes are, the greater the chances for disparity in any given care. Some of that one could argue is necessary because of the differences within the cases but once you narrow the potential option such as we do with Project Exile and Virginia Exile, you are sending a message that there is an expectation of a particular sentence for a particular kind of egregious conduct. That tends to reduce disparity within the system, and I think that is a very desirable thing.
I want to elaborate as to why. Because of predictability, because people on the street have predictability, they begin to know that if they carry a gun, they are a felon, they carry a gun with cocaine, one thing they know for sure, there is the greatest likelihood it is going to be 5 years in a remote penitentiary. Therefore, they don't do it. I think that is very important.
Mr. GEKAS. I yield back the balance of my ''nontime.''
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Ms. Jackson Lee, you are recognized for 5 minutes.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you for this hearing and thank the Governor for his presence. I am not sure if I have any appreciation from you but I am a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, so I guess there is some association.
Mr. GILMORE. So am I.
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Ms. JACKSON LEE. I believe that some of the points my colleagues have made I would like to associate myself with and that is the inquiry of the cost of the program. Maybe you might be able to share that with us but as well, to indicate that this program initiated by the U.S. Attorney was determined to be workable in Virginia and you saw fit to emulate it.
I would tend to be inclined that might occur in other States, that the States would determine what might be best for them or the needs of their particular community and that we would not come away from this hearing by suggesting one response is better than the other, or that enforcement is mutually exclusive from gun safety laws.
In particular, I am interested if you recollect how many of these offenses have you all been able to bring, meaning the State? Do you have knowledge of that and at the same time, how many have actually brought about prosecutions or convictions?
Mr. GILMORE. Let me say a couple of things. First of all, this statute under my recommendation went into effect in the middle of 1999. It takes time to work a case through the criminal justice system. We are now have four we know of pending in an exile targeted area of Lynchburg and we have seen four such cases already work their way through since the law became effective in Virginia. Those were four offenses that carried 60 months, 60 months, 72 months and 84 months, so there is some predictability that is coming through as a result of this.
As I said, it is early days for Virginia Exile because we only had the bill passed last year and there hasn't been time to work many of these cases through.
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However, what is pertinent is the statistics from the proven pilot program. That showed that in year one, we had 254 defendants in Richmond; year two, 176; year three, 160 for a total of 590. The number of guns removed from the street were 705; the arrests were 441; sentencings were 374; and total incarceration time was 21,006 months. As a result of that, Virginia is a lot safer. I am glad for that, frankly. We are keeping faith with the citizens of Richmond.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I would not diminish that. I would simply say that the evidence that is shown in the U.S. Attorney's effort and now the new law gives us pause to say whether or not we should rush to make this a Federal law because we need to look at what I would like to think is the proof in the pudding in terms of how States are utilizing or having the impact of that particular legislation.
I would also note that at the same time you had this particular legislation, you also had the one gun a month, and you wouldn't find that mutually exclusive. You would find the one gun a month a positive impact on Virginia?
Mr. GILMORE. Not so much on Virginia because the goal of that purportedly was not to necessarily stop honest Virginians but instead to stop people coming down from other States to our north or south, coming in and buying many, many guns.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Many of them could wind up staying there, as well, having an impact?
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GILMORE. Yes, but that wasn't the purpose of the statute. Nonetheless, it is probably helpful. It is a modicum in Virginia, more helpful than in other States.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. The point is that the question with this legislation becomesas I said in the final resolve, maybe I will find this worthy of expanding nationwide. I would prefer to hear from the different States on thisbut this one example should not preclude the idea of closing gun show loopholes, the idea of trigger locks, the idea of insuring that there are gun safety measures that impact children who, for example, engage in a tragedy that results in an accidental shooting.
I am trying to help us not or have you say or have you at least understand that we can parallel, if I understand, enforcement with safety. Do you agree or disagree?
Mr. GILMORE. Generally, I agree. I think this is more effective because it goes to the right people. Certainly every American consistent with their liberties and their ability to protect their families through personal responsibility, which is the obligation of every gun owner, to exercise personal responsibility to keep it in a secure place, and these are all approaches you deal with with law abiding citizens.
Virginia Exile and Project Exile doesn't do that. It focuses on people who would willfully and deliberately use a firearm in order to hurt other people and take advantage of the weak. That is the greatest and most noble goal of the Congress and the State Governments to address the issue of the strong who would take advantage of the weak through firearm misconduct and crime.
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I believe personally that the correct public policy ought to be to focus on people who would commit crimes. Virginia Exile and Project Exile does that. I think the Federal Administration is certainly entitled to credit for bringing that public policy forward several years ago. I, for one, am quite puzzled why we don't see more discussion of that from the White House and the Federal Government at this point in dealing with these kinds of issues. They have had a successful program that deals with crimes by criminals and I don't understand why we don't hear more about it.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. We have a point of agreement. Certainly those who perpetrate consistently and repeatedly violent crimes with guns, we all are looking to enforce laws against them. At the same time, we have statistics that say 60 percent of the American people welcome stricter gun laws that focus on safety.
What we should get out of this hearing, I hope, is that they are not mutually exclusive.
I yield back.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you, Ms. Jackson Lee.
Mr. Coble, you are recognized.
Mr. COBLE. Governor, good to have you with us. We have a saying in North Carolina that we are a valley of humility between two peaks of pride.
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Mr. GILMORE. I have heard that, Congressman.
Mr. COBLE. I don't ask you to sign off on that but with you and the gentlelady from Texas claiming graduate degrees from the university of my good friend from Richmond, I think you recently named him to the Distinguished Board of Visitors in Charlottesville, so I feel outnumbered today but it is good to have you here.
My friend from Pennsylvania inserted his oars into my waters. I was going to talk to you about the possible abuse of the plea bargaining exercise, but I think you pretty well addressed it. I have known prosecutors and judges who will do anything short of bringing Houdini into the courtroom to avoid trial. I am sure you and Walter Holton are not guilty of that but the judges exert great pressure from the bench, you guys come to an agreement, we don't have time to try this case, but I take it that you have not found that to be abusive in response to the gentleman from Pennsylvania's question?
Mr. GILMORE. Not within the context of this bill or laws similar to that. I think it helps the process by setting down public policy of what is expected. It is pretty tough for a prosecutor to walk away from a silent case when he has the Legislature of Virginia or the Congress of the United States declaring public policy to get these people off the street. I think it helps.
Mr. COBLE. Let me be even more specific. Do prisoners generally serve the full 5 years in Virginia prisons or is there a good behavior time whereby they would serve less than 5 years? How does that work day to day?
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Mr. GILMORE. In Virginia, you serve at least 85 percent of your time.
Mr. COBLE. I commend you, Governor, if it was your idea. If not, for whoever had the idea, of posting the billboard signs. I like that. Is that done just between Virginia and the District of Columbia or is that all your bordering States?
Mr. GILMORE. Oh, no. All of our bordering States and I think there are some billboards within the State too.
Mr. COBLE. I wasn't sure if that was just the District of Columbia or not.
Mr. GILMORE. If I may add to something about this, I remember this very specifically when we were taking up Virginia Exile. I wanted very much to have billboards up because I think it is in the area of fair warning. I am a believer in fair warning. I think you tell somebody out there, this is a very severe penalty, it is 5 years without parole, just don't do this and then we don't have to deal with it. I believe in that kind of fair notice. That is why I wanted the billboards up.
Mr. COBLE. On balance, I give you high marks because Tom Bliley has told me about this program before today's hearing. I think you get high marks on this.
Is it your belief that the money provided in H.R. 4051 is sufficient or too modest? I am sure you wouldn't say too excessive, but do you think it is about the right amount of money to address the problem at this time?
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Mr. GILMORE. I think any dollar you could get into the program in order to assist the States with a program like this saves lives of people across the United States. I would encourage anything you feel you can get appropriated to go into the program. I believe what is here is certainly a good start and ought to give the States some incentives to proceed on and I think that is a good thing to do. I don't think you can ever spend too much money to save the lives and property of the people of the United States.
Mr. COBLE. Thank you. Good to have you with us.
I yield back.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you.
Mr. BLILEY. Governor, I was listening when one of my colleagues was talking about the cost benefits of this program. I was looking at my notes and seeing how in Richmond homicides dropped 46 percent. In my opinion, you can't put a value on that. That is human lives that have been saved as a result of this program.
When you look at the fact that gun crimes have dropped 65 percent, aggravated assaults 39 percent and violent crimes 35 percent, the property damage, the physical damage, all of these things, the expense of the emergency rooms for treating these people, most of whom don't have insurance, and the cost to the Commonwealth having once served on the Board of VCU and the hospital committee, I know just how much that emergency room at MCV cost the Commonwealth and the taxpayers. Most important, I just don't think you can put a value on a human life.
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You have had a great career. You were 6 years as the Commonwealth Attorney in Henrico County. Would this program have been of benefit to you as a the Commonwealth's Attorney in Henrico?
Mr. GILMORE. No doubt about it, Congressman. Any tool that you can give a prosecutor to protect people and prevent gun crimes is something you ought to try to do.
My experience is that even though prosecutors are very busy, they really do want to do the right thing and they want to try to protect the communities they are a part of. I am reminded of a fellow by the name of Melvin Douglas Bug Smith who was a young guy who was thought on the street to be responsible for 30 murders in the Richmond area. After he got into a Project Exile situation, he went off the street and he was sentenced finally to a long time in prison. First he got 16 years, then he got 65 on that. He is gone. Think of the people who are not going to get killed as a result of getting that guy off the street. This is the right approach.
Mr. BLILEY. Thank you, Governor.
Thank you, Chairman McCollum, for extending me this courtesy. You will remind me to be reciprocal when members of this committee would like to come and testify before the Commerce Committee.
My friend and colleague from Houston has been before my committee and she was very helpful when we passed the date rape drug bill last year.
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Mr. MCCOLLUM. I want to thank you for coming today, but more importantly, in certain ways, Mr. Bliley, besides being my classmate and the former Mayor of Richmond, that is your home district where this all got started. I know you have been instrumental in encouraging it, you are a co-sponsor of the bill, so we are very delighted you are here.
Mr. BLILEY. I would love to take credit for it, but I really didn't have anything to do with it. It was the United States Attorney and the Chief of Police in Richmond who got this thing going. At the time, I don't think they realized how successful it would be. It has been just overwhelming.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. In any event, it is a very good response in your home district. Obviously, Governor Gilmore, we are delighted you are here because we want to take this model you presented to us and do the things you know this bill does and get the other States to follow suit. There are 44 more States that need to do something close to this. Maybe none of them are exactly like yours, but at least five others have come closer.
Thank you again for spending the time you have on numerous occasions both as Attorney General of Virginia and now as Governor. We appreciate it. Thank you.
Mr. GILMORE. Thank you for your leadership, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. We are now ready for our second panel, which also consists of a sole witness. In this case, it is the Honorable Walter Holton, United States Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina. Mr. Holton currently serves as a member of the Attorney General's Advisory Committee and is co-chair of that committee's Office of Justice Programs subcommittee. Mr. Holton has been instrumental in implementing a successful Federal-State gun crime prosecution program in his Federal district. Earlier in his legal career, Mr. Holton served as an Assistant District Attorney in Forsyth County and was in private practice for specializing in criminal defense work in State and Federal courts prior to that time.
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Mr. Coble I think has already made a comment or two, but if he wants to add to that or embellish it as a North Carolinian, he is certainly welcome.
Mr. COBLE. You have been very generous with all of us today. I can't add much to it. I think Walter served very admirably as U.S. Attorney and you are in your fourth year, Walter?
Mr. HOLTON. Six years now.
Mr. COBLE. Six years. Time goes by when you are having fun. It is good to have you here, Walter.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. I am going to turn this over to you for whatever you want to say. Your full statement that we have here will be submitted to the record, without objection. We would request with the hour of the day that you summarize that portion of it you feel most critical. Mr. Holton, you are recognized.
STATEMENT OF WALTER C. HOLTON, JR., UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, MIDDLE DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Mr. HOLTON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you, Mr. Coble, for that warm reception and introduction earlier.
I am Walter Holton, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina, which includes all of Congressman Coble's district in the valley of humility down there. On behalf of the Department of Justice and my fellow U.S. Attorneys, I would like to thank the chairman and the committee for this opportunity to testify.
All of us strongly support the goal of enacting sensible measures to reduce gun violence in this country. We know that further legislation can provide additional resources and can correct some current problems in our current Federal firearms laws which will improve our ability to stop gun crimes.
As the committee knows, the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorneys across the country have implemented several important approaches to reduce crime over the past 7 years. Some of these include funding for additional police officers on the streets, preventing the illegal gun sales through Brady gun background checks and an intense focus on violent crime and in particular, on gun crime initiatives.
The true measure of any success for a crime reduction strategy is whether the crime rate is falling. As the committee knows, since 1992, our Nation has seen a 20 percent decrease in violent crime, and perhaps more significantly, we have seen a 35 percent decrease in the number of violent crimes that are committed with firearms.
In communities across the country as we just heard from Governor Gilmore of Virginia, there have been very successful partnership efforts among State, Federal, local law enforcement and members of the community. As the charts to my left indicate, for example, in Boston, Operation Ceasefire has reduced the number of homicides by 75 percent from 1995 to 1999. As we just heard in Richmond, Project Exile has reduced homicides by more than 50 percent from 1997 to 1999. We see similar success in Minneapolis and Indianapolis.
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I am also proud to report that in High Point, North Carolina, in the heart of Congressman Coble's district, we have seen a 50 percent reduction in overall violent crimes committed with firearms from 1997 to 1999. During that same period, we have seen a greater than 80 percent reduction in gun murders that have occurred in High Point.
From 1997 to 1999, Congressman Coble, we have seen a 100 percent reduction in gun murders that involved either drugs or gang activity. In that regard, in 1997 and 1998, High Point, which is a city of 80,000 people, experienced 16 gun murders that involved either drug activity or gang members. That was more than double the national per capita average.
Since the implementation of our gun strategy and our violence reduction strategy in High Point, which was in late 1998, we have now gone 15 months through all of last year and the first 3 months of this year without a single murder occurring that involved a drug deal or a gang member.
What is especially encouraging to me is the final chart on the left. We believe that is due to the fact that there is a great deal of community involvement, community buy-in in our effort. Reverend Fails from High Point will talk about that a little later.
This progress is encouraging but we feel we can do so much more. Last March, President Clinton directed the Attorney General and the Secretary of Treasury to develop coordinated firearm reduction strategies across the country. All of the U.S. Attorneys have followed through on this directive and we are now engaged in district by district gun violence reduction efforts.
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In developing these strategies as directed by the Attorney General, we have sought the input not only of the Federal investigative agencies, but we have also met and sought the input of our State and local colleagues and numerous community leaders such as Reverend Fails form High Point.
In developing these strategies, we are building upon what we know works. For example, over the past 7 years, we have been very successful in prosecuting the worst first. The data shows that the number of firearm offenders who have been convicted and sentenced to terms of imprisonment of greater than 5 years in Federal Court has increased by more than 40 percent from 1992 to 1999, as contained in the middle chart.
Last year, in 1999, Federal prosecutors brought more gun cases than in any year since 1992. This is despite the fact that there has been a 35 percent reduction in the overall numbers of these cases. Overall, as indicated in the first chart, Federal and State prosecutions and firearm offenses combined are up significantly from 1992.
We believe the figure that really matters is whether or not the strategies are working as we just heard about Project Exile in Richmond. We think the answer is definitely yes.
Regarding H.R. 4051, the Department of Justice strongly supports the goal of providing resources for our State and local counterparts who clearly shoulder the greatest burden for reducing gun violence. The Department greatly appreciates the chairman's recognition of the critical role the States play in this effort and that the bill take steps to support that role.
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We do have some concerns with the bill. All of them are set out in the written testimony but I would like to highlight one at this time.
The bill provides an alternative means of gaining eligibility for the funds to the States in which the State may enter into an agreement with Federal officials that would obligate the Federal officials to prosecute all applicable gun cases. It concerns me in this regard. The U.S. Attorney's office, in our district we have 20 lawyers total, we are one of the ten smallest offices in the country, would be obligated to prosecute these gun cases and yet get no additional prosecutors or no additional ATF agents for our district to investigate or handle these cases.
At the same time, the States would get the money and could potentially use the money for purposes that may not directly impact gun violence strategies. The Department believes that the broadest approach to enforcement is contained and represented is the McCarthy-Conyers bill, 4066, which authorizes funding for the President's Firearm Enforcement Initiative has considerable merit. The President's request includes 500 new ATF inspectors and agents which we critically need; 1,000 new State and local prosecutors; and 100 Federal prosecutors who can try these cases; support for ballistics testing which would help law enforcement improve their tracing ability for guns used in crimes; money to fund local media campaigns to discourage gun violence which Governor Gilmore has just testified has been of critical importance to the success of the Richmond effort; and the expansion of smart gun technologies.
In conclusion, together, State, local, Federal counterparts and across bipartisan lines, we have achieved significant results in reducing crime over the past 7 years. We are very proud of those results, we are very proud of our enforcement efforts. We know we could do even more with additional resources and the statutory tools the President has requested.
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We believe we have a historic opportunity to end the cultural of violence as we have known it. The U.S. Attorneys and the Department of Justice look forward to working with this committee, to working with Congress and to working with our State and local colleagues to accomplish this goal.
That concludes my remarks and I would be happy to answer any questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Holton follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF WALTER C. HOLTON, JR., UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, MIDDLE DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Mr. Chairman, Congressman Scott, and Members of the Subcommittee:
Good afternoon. My name is Walter Holton. I am the United States Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina. The Department of Justice (DOJ) appreciates this opportunity to testify concerning our firearms enforcement efforts and our views on recently introduced firearms legislation. We strongly support the goal of enacting sensible measures to reduce firearms violence in America. Without further legislation to provide additional resources and correct major deficiencies in our current federal firearms laws, we are hampered in our ability to deter gun crimes and save lives.
The Historic Reduction in Violent Crime
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As this Subcommittee knows, we have developed and implemented several important approaches to reduce crime over the past seven years. These have included helping fund an additional 100,000 local law enforcement officers, preventing more than 500,000 illegal gun sales through Brady background checks, and targeting violent crimeincluding gun crimethrough strategic initiatives.
The true measure of any successful crime reduction strategy is a falling crime rate. The nation's overall crime rate has fallen for seven consecutive years and is at its lowest in the last 25 years. Nationally, homicide rates have declined to levels last seen in the 1960s. Since 1992, the nation's violent crime rate has dropped by more than 20%. In certain communities, the integrated efforts by, and coordination among, federal, state, and local law enforcement and other community leadersefforts supported by the Administrationhave produced even more dramatic drops in the violent crime rate. In Boston, Massachusetts, for example, collaboration among law enforcement and community leaders through Operation Ceasefire has reduced violence by youth gangs and brought down the number of homicides from 64 in 1995 to 17 in 1999a decline of 73%. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, effective law enforcement and prevention efforts conducted by public-private partnerships have reduced homicides by 30%, and summertime homicides by 75%. And in Richmond, Virginia, effective and coordinated law enforcement, including heightened enforcement of gun laws through the program known as ''Project Exile,'' reduced homicides by more than 30% in 1998 over 1997. The success of four of our locally-driven gun violence reduction plans are graphically illustrated in the chart provided. See Attachment A.
In my district, our community efforts in High Point, North Carolina, have resulted in a 49% reduction in the total number of homicides, robberies and assaults with firearms between 1997 and 1999. Included in our success is an 82% reduction in firearms homicides during the same period. We have also achieved a 100% reduction in firearms homicides that are gang or drug related, which was the focus of our strategy. On that point, in 1997 and 1998 combined, High Point experienced 16 gun murders related to drug or gang activity. Since the implementation of our gun violence reduction strategy in late 1998, we have not had a single drug or gang related murderfor over 15 months. What is especially encourging to me is that, at the same time that we have had this vigorous enforcement effort, citizen complaints about police officer conduct have been cut in half from 1997 to 1999. A chart depicting the High Point success is attached. See Attachment B.
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The Reduction in Violent Crimes Committed with Firearms
The decline in the number of violent crimes committed with firearms nationwide has been even more dramatic than the drop in the overall crime rate. Between 1992 and 1998, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Uniform Crime Report (UCR) data show that violent crimes committed with firearms decreased by over 35%. This decrease is depicted in the attached graph. See Attachment C. The most recent UCR data also show that homicides dropped 7% during 1998, a decline apparently attributable entirely to a decrease in killings with firearms. At least one highly respected criminologist has publicly attributed this decline in gun crime to efforts at controlling the availability of guns to young people and recent law enforcement strategies. See ''FBI Study Finds Gun Use in Violent Crimes Declining,'' New York Times, A16 (October 18, 1999), Attachment D.
Despite this progress in reducing gun violence, the Justice Department continues to view the further reduction of violent crimeincluding violent crime committed with firearmsas a top priority. The number of people killed with firearms in our country remains unacceptably high. Every day, 89 Americansincluding 12 young peopledie from gunshot wounds. For each fatal shooting, three more people are injured by firearms. These grim statistics call upon all of us to do even more to reduce firearms violence.
National Strategy to Reduce Gun Violence
Last March, President Clinton issued a directive to the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury to build upon the reductions in crime over the last seven years by developing an integrated firearms violence reduction strategy that depends on collaboration, vigorous enforcement, innovation, and prevention. In carrying out this initiative, the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury have called upon the law enforcement expertise and leadership of the United States Attorneys' Offices (USAOs) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).
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All of the United States Attorneys (USAs) and ATF Special Agents in Charge (SACs) have followed through on this directive and are engaged in locally-coordinated gun violence reduction strategies. In developing their strategies, the USAs and ATF SACs sought the participation of other law enforcement agencies that play a significant role in responding to violent crime, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration and, of course, state and local police and prosecutors. They also included elected leaders and, as appropriate, private businesses, researchers, educators, social services providers, community organizations, and members of the faith community. Key community stakeholders were invited to participate in developing and implementing a comprehensive strategy.
In connection with the initiative, the nature and scope of the gun violence problem in each judicial district was assessed. To address their unique gun violence problems, the USAs and SACs examined the legal tools and firearms-related resources available in their jurisdictions for addressing firearms violence. In addition, each jurisdiction surveyed the strategies that currently exist within the jurisdiction to combat gun violence, and developed any additional strategies that would be appropriate for use in particular localities. (Each USAO received a copy of the Department of Justice's guide: ''Promising Strategies to Reduce Gun Violence,'' which contains descriptions of 60 gun violence programs already in place across the country which appear to be effective.)(see footnote 1) Each USAO and ATF regional office has also designated an individual to serve as a point of contact for the initiative. This point of contact coordinates with regional counterparts, as well as with the Departments of Justice and the Treasury.
Through the continued leadership of the USAs and ATF, we are engaging in truly comprehensive enforcement: insisting that federally licensed firearms dealers comply with all applicable laws; using data and information developed through comprehensive crime gun tracing, mapping and analysis strategically to identify illegal gun markets, gun hot spots and illegal gun traffickers; and assuring that illegal possessors, users and traffickers of guns receive appropriate sanctions. In our successful efforts over the past seven years, we have come to learn that the most effective strategies necessarily involve a coordinated approach in which federal prosecutors and investigators team up with their state and local counterparts, as well as other civic leaders, to determine what prevention and intervention methods work best in their communities, and which available sanctions are most appropriate. Among the programs that we asked the communities to consider as they developed their own strategies were the programs featuring coordinated aggressive prosecution of gun cases that are called ''Project Exile'' in Richmond, Virginia, and ''Operation Ceasefire'' in Boston, Massachusetts.(see footnote 2)
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In my district, we have developed a gun violence reduction strategy that uses a data-driven approach to identify particular crime problems and those offenders causing those problems. Under the program, chronic offenders are investigated and prosecuted in federal and state court. We then: notify the remaining offenders of the community's future intolerance of violent acts and offer opportunities for them to leave their violent lifestyle; coordinate the delivery of needed community resources; develop and implement a comprehensive multi-agency response to further acts of violence; and evaluate the current strategy on an ongoing basis to assure that it is effective in reducing gun violence.
Federal Participation in the Historic Reduction of Violent Crime
We are strongly committed to the goal of enacting effective measures that will further reduce gun violence in America. Federal prosecutors have been working hard and doing their part to continue the historic reduction in violent gun crime through vigorous enforcement of existing laws. Last year, federal prosecutors brought charges under the two main provisions of the federal gun laws against more defendants than in any year since 1992, despite the historic drop in crime during that period. The 5,500 cases with charges under the two primary provisions of the federal Gun Control Act brought by federal prosecutors in 1999 was 16% more than the 4,754 such cases brought in 1992.
More importantly, the number of firearms offenders who were convicted and sentenced to more than five years in federal prison increased by more than 40% from 1992 to 1999. See Attachment H. In general, from 1992 to 1999, the average sentence length for firearms offenders in federal court increased from 73.9 months (about 6 years) to 98.3 months (about 8 years). These figures demonstrate that we have used our limited federal resources to target the most serious, violent, and chronic gun offenders.
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We also emphasize that comprehensive enforcement of the firearms laws must address each link in the chain of gun violenceillegal acquisition, possession, and use of firearmsand also address the underlying causes and consequences of such violence. True enforcement includes targeting the illegal supply of guns by ensuring that criminals and other prohibited persons cannot buy guns on the legal market. It includes the investigation, prosecution, and deterrence of illegal gun trafficking through tracing, ballistics, and other means that have been greatly enhanced by technology and federal/state cooperation. In order to stop guns from being used illegally, enforcement also includes intervention and prevention programs to break the cycle of violence that still grips so many in our communities. We are committed to doing more on the federal level to prevent, prosecute, and deter gun violenceall of which are necessary for the full enforcement of the firearms laws.
Earlier this year, President Clinton unveiled a gun enforcement budget initiative that is the largest increase ever proposed to attack the problem of gun violence. Among the resources requested by the President for Fiscal Year 2001 is funding for 200 new ATF inspectors and 300 new ATF agents to investigate and pursue gun offenders. It is our view that these additional ATF resources are critically needed. In addition, the Administration has asked for 1,000 new state and local prosecutors, as well as 100 federal prosecutors, to try an increased number of gun cases and take more dangerous offenders off the streets. To further our ability to catch such criminals, the President's budget would provide for funds to support and implement the first nationally-integrated ballistics testing systemwhich could help law enforcement identify gun criminals even when the specific firearms used in crime are not recoveredand expanded crime gun tracing. And finally, in an effort to prevent gun violence from occurring in the first place, the President's budget would authorize funding for local media campaigns to discourage gun violence and send a tough message on penalties for breaking the gun laws, as well as the enhanced funding for the development of ''smart gun'' technologies.
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Increased Collaboration on Firearms and Violent Crime
Given the federal system of government in the United States, no crime reduction strategy can ignore the fact that the vast majority of the violent crime in our country falls within the jurisdiction of state and local agencies, or that the vast majority of resources to fight crime are provided by state and local governments. Certainly, in some specialized areas, such as multi-district trafficking in drugs, weapons, or aliens, crime must be attacked primarily at the federal level. However, in most other areas, where state and local governments have primary responsibility, the federal government is most helpful to the extent it provides support, leadership, statutory tools, and coordination. Our coordinated efforts have resulted in an increase in overall gun prosecutions and reductions in gun violence. Working together, federal, state and local law enforcement have increased gun prosecutions by more than 22% since 1992. See Attachment I.
Chairman McCollum's bill to establish a grant program for states to support their law enforcement agencies and other vitally important resources needed to combat gun crime, H.R. 4051, acknowledges the critical role that the state and local governments play in the effort to reduce gun crime and violence. The Department shares in its recognition that the states and localities shoulder the greatest responsibility for the prevention, prosecution, and deterrence of firearms offenses, and its premise that tough, effective sentences are important tools to punish and deter gun crime. Moreover, we agree with the goal of Chairman's McCollum's bill: bolstering resources to enhance our gun enforcement efforts. We commend H.R. 4051 for providing increased funding for firearms enforcement, although we note that unlike the President's proposal, which would provide $280 million in Fiscal Year 2001, it authorizes only $10 million for this purpose in Fiscal Year 2001, with $100 million over five years.
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While we applaud H.R. 4051's recognition of the primary role of state and local law enforcement in the fight against violent crime, upon a preliminary review of the legislation, we find that several of the provisions of the bill are inconsistent with its purpose. We note the primary concerns we have about various provisions of the bill below, and expect to provide additional comments in the future.
First and foremost, the bill provides states with an alternative means of gaining eligibility for federal funds if they enter into a cooperative agreement ''with [the] appropriate federal authorities' ensuring that all of the applicable gun cases will be prosecuted federally. The option of allowing states to receive the available funding without assuming the responsibility of prosecution negates the very incentive that the bill attempts to create. We believe that the enactment of this option would provide little inducement for the states to implement tough sentences for criminals who are caught with a gunor actually to enforce available laws to the fullest extentif the states can just as easily get the new money by passing the responsibility of prosecution on to the federal government.
H.R. 4051 is premised on the important role that state and local authorities play in combating gun crime, and this proposition is central to the successes we have achieved in reducing gun violence in recent years. Federal, state and local law enforcement officers can work most effectively to reduce crime when they are encouraged to collaborate, as they have done to great public benefit in numerous violent crime task forces and specially targeted initiatives. These efforts, as exemplified by the Department's Anti-Violent Crime Initiative (AVCI), have taught us that coordinated, comprehensive, and locally-tailored programs are very effective in reducing violent crime.
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DOJ introduced the AVCI in 1994, broadening the national violent crime focus from one emphasizing firearms violations alone (''Triggerlock'') to one that strategically targets violent crime as manifested in local communities. AVCI relies on collaboration among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, which has resulted in more prosecutions being handled in the jurisdiction best suited to a particular case.(see footnote 3) AVCI has generated an increased focus on gangs and other violent criminal enterprises that frequently involve firearms violations. This expanded focus has yielded federal cases that are more difficult to develop but which can have a greater impact on community safety than individual firearms prosecutions. For example, successful prosecutions have been brought against major gangs such as the Latin Kings in the East and the Gangster Disciples in the Midwest as part of our broader efforts.
The Justice Department is building on these successes, and applying them directly to the issue of firearms violence, by helping more communities develop strategies and solutions that take into account the specific elements of the gun violence problem within each community, and the unique legal tools and resources available in different jurisdictions. Federal, state and local authorities should be free to analyze their local gun crime problem in a rigorous and careful manner, and then to determine the most sensible and efficient allocation of their resources. No single formula for combating gun violence works in all, or even most, settings. Creating incentives that could result in the indiscriminate federalization of specific types of gun crimes might significantly hamper the ability of state, local and federal prosecutors to combat the violent crime problem in their own communities most effectively.
Discretion in determining the allocation of resources is particularly critical for our United States Attorneys, who must prosecute all of the uniquely federal crimes in this countryfrom terrorism to kidnapping to interstate gun traffickingin addition to an appropriate share of the crimes for which the state and local authorities have concurrent jurisdiction. We urge Congress not to create incentives that might lead to the wholesale federal adoption of local gun prosecutions, which would significantly hinder the ability of federal authorities to enforce the other important federal laws and overwhelm the federal courts.
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Second, by its provision that permits states to use the proposed funds for courts, prisons, and probation, H.R. 4051 recognizes that the costs of enhancing firearms prosecutions include not only the costs of investigation and prosecution, but also the costs of prisoner supervision and detention before, during, and after trial. However, the bill undermines this recognition with its incentive structure, which allocates resources exclusively to the states, even if the state has entered into an agreement under which federal law enforcement officers handle all of the firearms prosecutions as federal cases, with federal investigative, prosecutive, trial and incarceration costs. Unlike the President's budget proposal, H.R. 4051 would not provide any new resources for federal investigation or prosecution.
Third, H.R. 4051 provides, as a means of alternate eligibility, for the existence of a cooperative prosecution agreement between the ''state'' and the ''appropriate federal authorities.'' While we support efforts to enhance coordination between federal, state and local authorities, a prosecution agreement that is made on a statewide basis by the Governor, Attorney General, or other state official may have no legal authority when local prosecutors, usually elected by their cities or counties, are the ones charged by the public to enforce the criminal laws. Many governors, under their constitutions, do not have prosecutorial authority. In practice, most forms of federal/state collaboration occur between United States Attorneys and their local counterparts. This allows for decisions to be made to fit the local needs of different parts of a state, whether they are urban, suburban, or rural. Accordingly, the bill's reliance on statewide agreements to achieve the intended purpose of increasing local firearms prosecutions seems misplaced.
Finally, we note that one of the statutory provisions that H.R. 4051 would have the states implement omits a critical element. As one option for eligibility to receive grant funds, the bill provides for the states to enact laws requiring that ''[a]ny person who, during and in relation to any violent crime or serious drug trafficking crime, uses or carries a firearm shall'' be subject to certain mandatory minimum penalties. This language mirrors an important federal criminal statute, 18 U.S.C. §924(c), with one critical distinction. Federal law now provides that the statutory penalties apply to those who ''possess'' a firearm, as well as to those who ''use or carry'' a firearm in the commission of the specified crimes. This amendment to §924(c) was enacted by Congress in response to the Supreme Court's decision in Bailey v. United States, 116 S. Ct. 501 (1995), which narrowly interpreted the term ''use'' of a firearm under the statute to mean that one had to have actively employed a gun during the crime's commission. This restrictive interpretation overturned the more expansive view of the term ''use'' adopted by many of the appeals courts before Bailey, and significantly reduced the ability of federal prosecutors to bring these charges. In addition, it required them to devote considerable time and resources to defending convictions obtained under the old interpretation of the statute from defendants' habeas appeals. At the urging of the Justice Department, in 1998 Congress added ''possession'' to §924(c) to remedy the detrimental effect Bailey had on federal law enforcement efforts. We urge a similar revision of this bill to ensure that any laws the states enact under its provisions do not pose the same problem for state prosecutors.
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In general, the Administration favors the approach set out in H.R. 4066, a bill that would authorize funding for the President's national firearms enforcement initiative. Of course, increased funding alone cannot effectively combat gun violence so long as major deficiencies continue to exist in our federal firearms laws. Provisions of H.R. 4066 fill a number of the critical gaps that are currently present in the Gun Control Act, including the need for a more realistic definition of what it means to be dealing in firearms, and an effective means of preventing significant firearms theft from licensed gun dealers, such as a requirement for the secure storage of firearms inventories. The Justice Department strongly supports these and other legislative measures that would assist us in our efforts to enforce the current laws, and further the historic reduction in violent crime. Common sense federal legislation such as the Brady Act has been significant in preventing the illegal acquisition and use of firearmsand the success of these measures has led to a greater understanding by law enforcement, the American public, gun manufacturers, and owners that sensible measures to regulate firearms can, and will, make a difference in reducing violence and saving lives. Although we have achieved significant results in the past seven years, we can do even more with the additional resources and statutory tools that H.R. 4066 would authorize. We also believe that common sense gun measures currently before the juvenile justice conferenceto close the gun show loophole, require child safety locks for handguns, and bar violent juvenile offenders from owning guns as adultswould provide additional tools to keep guns out of the wrong hands and help reduce gun violence. These measures can and should be enacted without further delay.
Working together, we have made significant progress in the fight against violent crimeespecially that involving firearms. It would be a profound mistake to become complacent, however. We have an historic opportunity and responsibility to press forward. America remains one of the most violent of the industrialized countries, and we canand mustredouble our efforts to uproot the culture of violence in our nation. Our efforts in the last seven years are clearly a prescription for success, and we look forward to furthering that success to make American even more secure against violent crime.
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Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, that concludes my prepared statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions that you may have at this time.
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PROJECT EXILE AND VIRGINIA EXILE
SOLUTIONS FOR THE GUN PROBLEM WHICH WORK
For more than a decade the newspaper headlines have read the same: Another Murder in the City of Richmond; Murder Rate Rises; Gun Violence Continues. It was stark reality that the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia was routinely among the five cities with the worst per capita murder rates in the country. Even while homicide rates were dropping in many areas of the country, they were actually increasing in Richmond. The use of guns by drug dealers, the willingness of many to flaunt the law and carry weapons, and a high incidence of domestic violence, fueled this high and ever increasing murder rate.
In 1997, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia developed and initiated Project Exile in Richmond, aimed at reducing the senseless and unbridled violence, which was plaguing the city. Project Exile is an aggressive, innovative, and creative approach to reducing the murder rate, by changing the culture of violence in Richmond through a comprehensive, multi-dimensional strategy. This strategy includes both law enforcement and prosecution components aimed at deterrence, as well as community outreach and education programs focusing on prevention.
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Project Exile is simple and straightforward in its execution, and requires relatively limited prosecution and law enforcement resources. The program's focus and message is clear, concise, easily understood, and most importantly, unequivocal: ''AN ILLEGAL GUN GETS YOU FIVE YEARS IN FEDERAL PRISON.'' For criminals carrying guns, the consequences have been swift, certain, and severe. For the citizens of Richmond, the results have been dramatic. They have taken back their neighborhoods, and now live in safer communities where houses can become homes, and neighbors can truly become friends.
The law enforcement and prosecution components of our strategy take full advantage of stiffer bond rules and sentencing guidelines available in federal court. In every case in Richmond where it is appropriate, felons with guns, drug dealers who use or possess firearms, and those using guns during domestic violence, are prosecuted federally. The project has fully integrated and coordinated local, state and federal (BATF/FBI) law enforcement agencies, and local and federal prosecutors. This widely based task force accomplishes prompt identification of a potential Project Exile defendant through the use of an expedited reporting system, which has decreased processing time from several months to several days. In court, bond is routinely and successfully opposed, defendants receive speedy trials and mandatory minimum sentences are imposed. The average sentence for a Project Exile defendant is an impressive 56 months. With swift and certain justice, the project has deterred violent crime in the City of Richmond by changing the culture of violence and criminal behavior.
The other major and essential component of the project addresses prevention. Project Exile has been an innovative community outreach and education initiative, using various media to get the message to the criminals that illegal guns are unacceptable, and will not be tolerated. More importantly, it has built a community alliance directed at the problem. A coalition of business, community and church leaders, and organizations such as the Retail Merchant's Association and the Chamber of Commerce, has been assembled to promote the project. The coalition, operating as the Project Exile Citizen Support Foundation, has funded a creative advertising campaign, including TV and radio commercials, billboards, a city bus completely painted black bearing the logo ''An Illegal Gun Gets You 5 Years in Federal Prison,'' 15,000+ business cards with the same message distributed on the street by local police, and a print advertising campaign. This outreach program has been extremely successful, increasing citizen reports about guns, and energizing the community to support police efforts.
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Through these efforts, hundreds of armed criminals have been removed from Richmond's streets. One violent gang, responsible for many murders, has been dismantled, its members now in prison. The rate of gun carrying by criminals has been significantly reduced, protecting not only the public but our police officers as well. Officers now report seeing drug dealers throwing down weapons before running from police, instead of taking the risk of being caught with a weapon. Information obtained from Project Exile defendants has been crucial to solving a large number of homicides. Most importantly, these efforts appear to be stemming the tide of violence. Homicides in 1998 were approximately 33% below 1997, for the lowest number since 1987. In the same period, armed robberies declined 30%. In 1999, homicides dropped another 21 %. And the numbers are continuing to drop this year. As a result, the citizens not only feel safer, they are safer.
Because of the demonstrated results in Richmond, the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Virginia has expanded Project Exile to the Tidewater area of Virginia, and is committed to continuing Project Exile as long as the need exists. Other cities have taken note of Project Exile's impact on the City of Richmond. Project Exile's concepts have been fully implemented in Rochester, New York, which is already seeing success similar to that in Richmond. Other cities, such as Philadelphia, PA, Oakland, CA, Birmingham, AL, Baton Rouge, LA, and Camden, NJ, are in the process of implementing projects based on the Richmond model.
Project Exile has proven that a comprehensive, multi-dimensional strategy can and will work. It can be a vital tool in accomplishing one of President Clinton's top prioritiesreducing the gun violence on our streets.
Page 94 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPROJECT EXILE
Project Exile is a comprehensive, multi-dimensional program by the United States Attorney's Office, B.A.T.F., U.S. Marshal, and FBI, in coordination with the Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney's Office, Richmond Police Department, the Virginia Attorney General, the Virginia State Police, and the business community and citizens of Richmond to reduce gun violence and remove armed criminals from Richmond streets. The project has made significant strides since it was announced on February 28, 1997, but reducing gun violence requires a coordinated community response to ensure continued success.
1. The Problem.
Gun violence has plagued Richmond for the last ten years, with Richmond consistently ranking in the top five murder per capita rates for the country. Thus, while homicide rates were dropping across the country, in Richmond they were actually increasing. In 1997, 140 people were murdered, 122 of them with firearms. Ordinary citizens live in fear, held hostage in their own homes by the gun violence on the streets. The drain on the business community is real and economic development opportunities are lost. Business employees are in danger of being murdered in robberies. Brave police officers face this danger every day. The toll this places on us all is simply incalculable.
Different causes play a role in the grim statistics. It is a fact that criminals in this city are regularly armed and willing to use weapons. By 1997, the link between drug dealing and guns had escalated to the point that almost every drug dealer was fully armed with high powered, readily accessible firearms, and they frequently used guns to steal from competitors, deter stealing, and carry out revenge. Even without the drug connection, for a variety of reasons, the police report a greater willingness of many on the street to carry weapons. This obviously contributes to the violence.
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Behind the total statistics is also an important picture. Those being killed are not just criminals. In fact, while a large percentage of the homicide toll is connected to drugs, there is more to that story. In 1998, 80% of all homicide victims were African-American, which places a grievous toll on one particular segment of the community. Half of the victims had no prior criminal record, which demonstrates that many persons killed were unlikely to have been involved in criminal activity leading to the homicide. Finally, the average age of homicide victims in 1998 was 28.2 years.
2. The ResponseProject Exile.
a) Law Enforcement
Project Exile is named for the idea that if the police catch a criminal in Richmond with a gun, the criminal has forfeited his right to remain in the community. The criminal will face immediate federal prosecution and stiff mandatory federal prison sentences (often five to ten years), and will be exiled to federal prison.
The innovative organizational aspects for the investigation/apprehension/ prosecution parts of the project include:
1. full coordination from the officer on the beat to the federal prosecutor;
2. full coordination with the local Commonwealth Attorney's Office and the Virginia Attorney General's Office, with each office detailing a staff prosecutor to the U.S. Attorney's Office to assist in prosecutions;
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3. active coordination of all police agencies (Richmond Police Department, Virginia State Police, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation), a simplified reporting system; and,
4. coordinated use of innovative and aggressive policing methods such as traffic checkpoints to locate drugs and guns.
When a police officer finds a gun during the officer's duties, the officer pages an ATF agent (24 hours a day). They review the circumstances and determine whether a federal statute applies.
The United States Code contains a series of statutes that can be used against the armed criminal. In summary, felons, drug users, fugitives, illegal aliens, and those convicted of domestic violence are prohibited from possessing firearms. Similarly, carrying a firearm in connection with drug dealing in violation of 18 U.S.C. §924(c) carries a mandatory five year jail term.
Federal prosecution is particularly effective for a number of reasons. First, the project takes an aggressive position against bond, and this approach has succeeded in taking defendants off the street. The federal bond statutes provide for holding a defendant without bond when the defendant poses a danger to the community. In this regard, for example, armed drug dealers are presumed to be dangerous and bear the burden of justifying release on some form of bond. Shifting this burden concerning bond has resulted in the vast majority of Exile defendants being held without bond.
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Second, the federal system applies a mandatory sentencing guideline system in which a court's sentencing discretion is limited. Therefore, for a given type of firearm violation, the penalty is clear, substantial, and served in full without parole. Thus, an armed criminal is truly exiled from the community. In both jury and bench trials, the prosecution has prevailed and lengthy prison sentences have been imposed.
Finally, defendants know that a federal jail term will likely be served elsewhere in the country. This has a major impact because serving a jail sentence among friends and acquaintances is seen by the defendants as much less onerous than serving time in a prison out of state. Anecdotally, defendants have expressed more concern about where they serve their time than whether they will be going to prison.
Since Project Exile was announced, experience demonstrates that federal prosecutors can undertake a large-scale prosecution effort of gun crimes with relatively limited personnel resources, and with a quick disposition of cases. It is estimated that an average of approximately 3 Assistant United States Attorneys and Special Assistant United States Attorneys have been utilized on Project Exile, including prosecutors detailed from the Richmond Commonwealth Attorney's Office, Virginia Attorney General's Office and the Department of Justice. As of October 1, 1999, in Richmond;
a. 544 individuals have been indicted for federal gun violations;
b. 650 guns have been seized;
Page 98 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCc. 407 persons have been arrested or are in state custody;
d. 289 arrestees (approx. 71%) have been held without bond;
e. 389 have been convicted;
f. 317 have been sentenced and the average sentence is 56 months.
c) Project Exile Citizen Support Foundation
To this end, it was announced in July 1997 that several civic leaders and community groups had formed the Project Exile Citizen Support Foundation to support Project Exile with a variety of public outreach and education efforts through various media. The Foundation was created by a prominent Richmond attorney whose law firm provided free legal work to create the Foundation, registered it as a tax exempt organization, and handled the contracting issues for the various media contracts. Tens of thousands of dollars have been raised for the media effort, and thousands more were raised in the form of donated media time and support.
d) Media efforts
The Foundation has been instrumental in the affirmative use of the media carrying the message ''An Illegal Gun Gets You Five Years in Federal Prison,'' and asking citizens to anonymously report guns on the street to the Metro Richmond Crime Stoppers telephone number. The Martin Agency, a prominent national advertising agency located in Richmond, provided substantial creative and production assistance at no cost to develop ways to get the message out to the community. The message has been distributed through 15 billboards, a fully painted city bus which covers the entire city by changing routes each day, TV commercials, Metro Richmond traffic reports, over a million supermarket bags urging support of Project Exile, and 15,000+ business cards with the message distributed on the street by local police and print advertising.
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The media outreach effort has substantially reduced street carrying rates. In addition, primarily as a result of the citizen outreach through the media/advertising effort, more citizens are reporting guns on the street, and a large number of gun cases result from citizen calls.
3. City of Richmond's commitment to Project Exile
The goal of Project Exile is simply to make Richmond's streets safe for all of its citizens. Any Richmonder knows what a great city Richmond is to live, work, own and operate a business, raise a family, and enjoy all the community has to offer. Unfortunately, the city's image has been tarnished with regular stories in the national media about the city's high per capita murder rate. Recognizing the potential of Project Exile, the City of Richmond government has strongly supported the effort in several ways.
a) Richmond Police Department
Any law enforcement effort directed at homicides on the street relies first on the full commitment of the local police force. From its inception, Project Exile has been fully supported by Richmond Police Chief Jerry Oliver, and his Deputy Chiefs. The project was conceived and developed with their direct input and ideas. First, the Richmond Police Department assigned three officers full-time to the Exile task force.
Second, the Richmond Police Department has organized several training programs for all of its officers to educate the officers regarding federal laws and involve the officers in the project. Each Richmond Police Officer also carries a laminated card which summarizes the federal firearm statutes and provides a 24-hour pager number if questions on firearms violations arise in the field.
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Third, the department has improved its procedures for the handling and tracing of firearms. The Richmond Police Department insures that all firearms are traced in coordination with ATF and insures that all firearms seizures are considered for inclusion in Project Exile.
Fourth, the Richmond Police Department has actively participated in the public outreach effort. Project Exile is not just a Federal initiative. Rather, Project Exile is a true team effort in which the Richmond Police Department plays a large and key role. Project Exile could not be successful without the full commitment of the Richmond Police Department.
4. Media coverage
Experience in Project Exile has demonstrated that getting the message out to both the criminals and the community is a continuing requirement to ensure success. As part of this effort, Project Exile has received various other news media coverage explaining the project and its success.
a) Richmond Times Dispatch/Richmond Free Press/Hard Times
The Richmond Times Dispatch has played a central role, through its coverage of federal court proceedings, in publicizing the project and its purposes. The coverage of Project Exile related matters has been extensive, balanced, and has informed the public of the project's purposes and success. The project would not be the success it has been without professional and detailed reporting in the paper.
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Similarly, the Richmond Free Press, a newspaper directed toward the African-American community, has provided important coverage of the project's success. This coverage is important because the African-American community has been particularly victimized by armed criminal violence. Full-page ads were run in early 1999 regarding the project.
Finally, the Virginia Coalition for the Homeless' bi-weekly newspaper ran full-page ads in January and February 1999 in support of the project. These ads reached many of those most affected by the problem of criminal violence.
b) National News
In July 1998, the Fox Network national news division produced a report which aired nationally on July 15, 1998. The report commented favorably on the project and its success. As a result, the U.S. Attorney's Office received inquiries from cities around the country about the project and whether it could be emulated in their localities.
As a result of the creative approach taken in Project Exile, CBS and ABC have highlighted the program in their broadcasts. The reports gave national exposure to the good news that Richmond's criminal violence is being substantially reduced.
c) Local T.V.
The United States Attorney conducted a series of interviews with reporters from each of the local T.V. stations to discuss Project Exile and its success continuing the high public visibility of the project.
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d) National print media coverage
In June 1998, the project began receiving national attention through various media including the Washington Post, New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, U.S. News and World Report, U.S.A. Today, Crime Prevention News, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times. As a result, the U.S. Attorney's Office has received numerous inquiries from jurisdictions around the country and is providing information to replicate the project in those areas.
e) Metro Traffic Reports
Project Exile began a traffic report sponsorship campaign in which each traffic report has a message that the report is sponsored by Project Exile, and following the report the announcer gives a message explaining the basic premise of the project. Subsequent messages provide a phone number which can be used to anonymously report armed criminals. This campaign has helped get the message out that armed criminals will be prosecuted federally, detained without bond, and receive mandatory sentences.
5. National organization endorsements
The coordinated approach to removing the armed criminal from Richmond's streets has received national attention beyond the electronic media. National groups crossing the political spectrum have reviewed and endorsed the project's approach. In 1998, the U.S. Attorney's Office received a letter of endorsement from Mr. Wayne LaPierre and Ms. Tanya Metaksa on behalf of the National Rifle Association, as well as a letter from Mrs. Sarah Brady on behalf of Handgun Control, Inc. As their letters makes clear, no matter what one's views are regarding the myriad issues involved in the ongoing gun control debate, all parties can agree that vigorous prosecution and sentencing of the armed criminal is not only appropriate, but also the first step in eliminating this modern terrorist from our streets.
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Recent academic studies, comparing crime and punishment rates in various countries, have made clear that swift, sure, and substantial prosecution punishment of violent crime will result in a reduction of those crime rates. By any measure, applying this principle, Project Exile has been an unqualified success. In a very brief time period, the project has removed a large number of criminals predisposed to violence from the streets of Richmond. The project has also demonstrated substantial reductions in gun carrying by criminals. In Richmond, the homicide rate has been significantly reduced. While many factors have contributed to the reduction, there is no doubt that project Exile has been a major factor. Homicides in 1998 were down 33% from 1997 and for 1999 through 18 March, homicides are down 97% from the same date in 1998. The homicide rate in 1998 was the lowest in the city since 1987.
Any one of numerous anecdotes tells the story as well:
A. In the spring 1998, in the execution of a search warrant, a defendant was caught with substantial quantities of drugs. What was unique was that no guns were found in the search. This was the first time anyone could remember a defendant with so much narcotics not being armed. The defendant was questioned extensively about where the guns were, with the defendant vehemently denying having any guns. Finally, somewhat exasperated, the defendant looked at the prosecutor and said, ''Haven't you heard man? Five years!'' It was clear that the advertising message, Ana illegal gun gets you five years in federal prison, had gotten through to its primary target audience.
Page 104 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC B. In another case, again in an interrogation, a drug/gun defendant patiently explained how he understood the feds had a special T.V. channel going into the projects to spread the message that the feds were cracking down on guns. He was referring to the T.V. commercials run at the end of 1997 on Fox-35 and several cable channels. He got the message even while overestimating the degree of the advertising.
C. In a recent case concerning the sentencing of a defendant, the defendant wrote to the U.S. Attorney complaining that the sentence he would be getting under the federal sentencing guidelines was too harsh in that it was based in part on his juvenile convictions. It was clear he had seen the outreach media message because he wrote in his letter,
I'm writing to you in reference to my Presentence Investigation Report. My charge is possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. My sentence guideline is 7796 months. In reaching my sentence guideline, the probation officer used 3 charges from my juvenile record on page 4 of my Presentence Investigation . . . in all do respect, I think going back to my juvenile record is a little too much. Even the bus and the billboard says five years. . . . (emphasis added)
D. In April 1998, a probation officer advised the United States Attorney's Office that he had been talking with a supervised defendant who had been engaged in drug dealing for many years. The defendant gestured to a poster on the wall with the Exile campaign message (Ana Illegal Gun Gets You Five Years In Federal Prison) and said, ''You got that right!'' He explained to the probation officer that the word on the street now is that if you sell drugs, then sell drugs but ''don't be carrying no gun.'' He said the message had gotten to the criminal element. Breaking the gun/drug link is the single most important factor in reducing street violence and murders.
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E. In June 1998, a plainclothes detective reported stopping three individuals on the street who met the radioed description of three individuals wanted for a recent crime. The detective detained the three and did a safety patdown for weapons. He asked one of the three if he had any weapons. The person responded, ''Are you crazy. That Exile thing will put you away for five years. I'd be an old man when I got out!'' None of the individuals were in fact carrying firearms.
The criminal element is clearly getting the message.
11. Future Efforts
a) Commitment to the comprehensive effort in Richmond.
Recent statistics show that the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia now ranks second among federal districts in prosecuting federal firearm violations. The U.S. Attorney is proud of this long-term commitment to addressing the problem of violent crime in the District and intends to continue the Office's focus on armed criminals.
Because success requires a sustained commitment, the federal and local authorities have pledged to continue the program as long as the need exists. Additional manpower has been assigned by the Richmond Police Department and the Virginia State Police, along with additional FBI and ATF resources requested. The Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney has detailed an experienced prosecutor to the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Virginia Attorney General also detailed an attorney to the Richmond U.S. Attorney's Office to assist in trials. In addition, the Department of Justice has detailed attorneys on a temporary basis to assist with Project Exile cases.
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b) Expansion of Project Exile to other areas
In January 1998, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced the expansion of the project to the Norfolk area. Certain areas in the Tidewater area also have high homicide rates, and it is expected that significant reductions can be achieved there as well. Since Project Exile began in the Tidewater area, 112 indictments have been brought, 43 individuals have been convicted and the average sentence is 64.4 months. To date, 279 guns have been seized.
VIRGINIA'S SUPPORT OF PROJECT EXILE, VIRGINIA'S STATE COMPLEMENT: VIRGINIA EXILE
I. Commonwealth of Virginia's commitment to Project Exile
The Commonwealth of Virginia has supported the United States Attorney's Office with Project Exile in a number of important respects. This support is indicative of the team approach taken throughout the project.
1) Virginia Attorney General
In October 1998, Virginia Attorney General Mark Earley announced that an attorney from the Attorney General's Criminal Division would be detailed to serve in the U.S. Attorney's Office as a full-time prosecutor for gun related crimes under Project Exile.
2) Richmond Commonwealth Attorney's Office
Page 107 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Project Exile has been a cooperative program with the Richmond Commonwealth Attorney's Office since the beginning. David Hicks, the Commonwealth Attorney, has provided a prosecutor from his office to assist in the prosecution of Exile cases.
3) Virginia State Police
Since the beginning of the project, the Virginia State Police have been a partner in the effort. The Virginia State Police have assigned state troopers to the task force of agents to expedite the preparation of investigation reports, and assist in the apprehension of armed criminals. The importance of this contribution cannot be overstated.
4) Virginia Governor
In 1998, Virginia's Governor, Jim Gilmore, also endorsed and lent his support to Project Exile. In particular, in September Gov. Gilmore hosted a dinner for many of Richmond's business and political leaders, at the governor's mansion to encourage support for Project Exile. Support by Richmond's business community has been a critical part of the success of the media outreach effort.
II. Virginia Exile
The 1999 Session of the General Assembly passed a battery of stiffer statutes in Virginia State Law which bring the state law in line with its federal counterpart. The package was dubbed ''Virginia Exile'' and it changed penalties for firearm charges as well as incorporating bail reform in the state laws. These statutes took effect July 1, 1999. The state's laws on the possession of illegal guns are the toughest they have ever been.
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Through Virginia Exile, the state will provide financial and technical assistance, and specialized training, to selected localities to help them reduce gun-related violence and get illegal firearms off their streets. The purpose of Virginia Exile is to reduce gun violence and homicide by: 1) enabling local prosecutors and law enforcement officials to identify and aggressively prosecute using newly strengthened state law and bail procedures persons charged with illegally possessing and using firearms; and, 2) assisting localities in organizing community-based and community supported public awareness efforts aimed at deterring gun violence by highlighting the enhanced enforcement/prosecution efforts and the certainty of punishment upon conviction.
Specifically, Virginia Exile addressed four major areas:
A. Possession of Firearm on School PropertyNow one convicted of this offense stands subject to a five year mandatory minimum prison sentence with no opportunity for parole. The sentence may not be suspended in whole or in part and, as in the federal system, must be served consecutive to any other sentence. (Virginia Code Section 18.2308.1)
B. Possession of Firearm by Convicted FelonFormerly in Virginia, this offense did not carry a mandatory minimum sentence. Now, one convicted of a violent felony faces a mandatory minimum prison sentence of five years in prison with no opportunity for parole. The sentence must be served consecutive to any other sentence and may not be suspended by the court. One convicted of a nonviolent felony faces a two-year mandatory minimum prison sentence which also must be served consecutive to any other sentence and may not be suspended by the court. (Virginia Code Sections 18.2308.2, 17.1805 (defining Acts of Violence)).
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C. Simultaneous Possession of Guns and DrugsOne who simultaneously possesses a firearm and controlled substance faces a mandatory minimum five year sentence and this sentence is also to be served consecutive to any other sentence and may not be suspended by the court. Note: This provision is a stricter law than its federal counterpart, for in order to be susceptible to a mandatory five year sentence in the federal system the defendant must possess a firearm in connection with the dealing of drugs, not mere possession. (Virginia Code Section 18.2308.4)
D. Bond ReformVirginia's bail statutes were also amended to state, in pertinent part, that when a person is charged with: a) possessing a firearm while simultaneously possessing a controlled substance, b) possession of a firearm on school property or c) possession of a firearm by a convicted felon there is a rebuttable presumption that no conditions of bail can reasonably assure the protection of the community or the appearance of the person at subsequent hearings. The bail statues further provide that the Commonwealth's Attorney has the right to appeal, up to the Supreme Court of Virginia, any bond set over its objection. (Virginia Code Sections 19.2119 through 19.2124)
E. Cooperation Between State and Federal AgenciesNow that Virginia Exile laws are in effect, in Richmond, the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office and the United States Attorney's Office have formed a committee, The Exile Coordinating Committee, comprised of attorneys and law enforcement personnel to review cases that fall under the Project Exile and Virginia Exile umbrellas. This committee meets regularly and considers on a case by case basis whether a case will be prosecuted in state or federal court. In the decision-making process, the emphasis is placed on which jurisdiction will be able to secure the longest sentence.
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In other jurisdictions in Virginia, the laws of Virginia Exile may still be prosecuted aggressively and local media campaigns may be launched. Recently Governor Gilmore has made funds available to four to six jurisdictions in the state, to apply towards the hiring of specific prosecutors for Virginia Exile. Factors taken into account in determining the eligible localities were the numbers of convictions in each locality for offenses specifically targeted by Virginia Exile, such as weapons possession or use, other related or designated offenses, and prior convictions of those arrested. A distinct statewide ad campaign for Virginia Exile has also been mounted and can be seen on bumper stickers on State Police vehicles as well as on billboards as one enters Virginia from other states on interstate highways. While Virginia Exile seeks to replicate the successful model developed in Richmond in other localities using the state criminal justice system, Commonwealth Attorneys from the localities receiving funds will be expected to establish partnership agreements with the federal prosecutors and federal law enforcement agencies serving their jurisdictions. Virginia Exile projects will be established on a sound footing with the state and local support they need for long-term success, while continuing to promote federal involvement and cooperation.
F. Staffing Project ExileThe Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney's Office has a team of attorneys and their attorney on assignment to the United States Attorney's Office, committed to handling Virginia Exile cases from arrest to disposition. These attorneys appear at arraignments and bond hearings for all individuals arrested under the state gun law package and in appropriate cases, appeal bond rulings to the next higher court. A similar practice with respect to full responsibility and vertical prosecution will likely be adopted by various Virginia localities as Virginia Exile is implemented statewide.
Page 111 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCCONCLUSION
It is not an exaggeration to say that armed criminals can and do terrorize our cities. Senseless violence tears at the very fiber of our community, and we cannot allow that to continue. We must deal with these criminals swiftly and firmly, so that our citizens can return to a level of normalcy, where decent, law-abiding people can live, work, and most importantly raise this nation's next generation of young adults.
However, federal prosecutions alone cannot put an end to the tragedy of violence in our cities. A sustained and comprehensive community effort is critical to our ultimate success. With Virginia Exile and the leadership of community-based organizations, such as those mentioned above, and with the support of those living in the community, we can overcome both the cause and the effect of the unbridled and unprecedented violence we have all seen.
enforce a very important message to the criminal element: an illegal gun will get you five years in prison; there will be no bond, no deal, no parole. There will only be prison.
This is a proven strategy, and it is making a difference.
PREPARED STATEMENT OF DONALD K. STERN, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS
I have spent a good deal of the last 6 years as the United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, focusing on the issue of gun prosecutions, as part of the effort to reduce youth violence. I have also served as the Chair of the Attorney General's Advisory Committee of United States Attorneys. And, I am pleased to report that Federal prosecutors' partnerships with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as with others in Boston, have achieved considerable success. Indeed, over 200 different jurisdictions have come to Boston to learn about what some have referred to as the ''Boston model.''
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First, please let me briefly set the scenedescribing what things were like in the early 90's in Boston and what they are like now. Then, I will identify three basic reasons for this success. After that, I would be pleased to respond to whatever questions members of the Committees might have.
In 1990, homicides were at an all time high in Boston. Drive-by shootings were commonplace. Parents were afraid to let their children play outside. There wag a real question about the viability of the City.
These problems were symbolized by two events, now etched in the memory of Boston. The first occurred in December, 1992, when fourteen gang members invaded the Morning Star Baptist Church during the funeral of a young murder victim, who had been shot in a drive-by killing. A 21-year old man was beaten and stabbed in the Church. Then, in December of 1993, Louis Brown was murdered. Louis was a 15 year old honor student, who attended West Roxbury High School. His dream was to be this Nation's first African-American President. While on his way to an afternoon anti-gang meeting, Louis was murdered in the cross-fire between two gangs.
Things have dramatically changed. Between 1995 and 1998, homicides dropped by 60. In 1998, there were 35 homicides in Boston, as compared with 152 in 1990. This year, thus far, the picture looks even better, with murders down even lower from where they were last year at the same time, Indeed, serious crime across the board is at its lowest level in 30 years.
And then there was.that period from July 1995 through December, 1997, when not one juvenile in Boston was murdered by a gun. I repeat, not one juvenile in Boston was murdered by a gun. While we knew that this could not last forever, this time of peace underscored that we were on to something successful.
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In 1990, 51 Boston young people, ages 24 and under, were murdered by a firearm. Last year, there were 16 such murders and this year, thus far, zero.
I attribute this remarkable success to three things:
1. The creation of true partnerships between local, county, state and federal officials as well as community leaders, the faith community and business leaders.
2. A willingness for those people to step out of traditional roles; and
3. A focused and targeted law enforcement strategy.
1. Build Partnerships
There is no question that the law enforcement community in Boston has its act togetherwe are co-operating in ways unthinkable in years past. While we shouldn't get medals for thistaxpayers should expect ityou are probably not surprised to hear that turf battles among law enforcement agencies can be fierce, even if counterproductive. For the past several years, the relationships among local, state and federal law enforcement has been a model for the country.
But this co-operative law enforcement effort would have fallen short unless there was an equally important component of developing a community-based justice system. Some of this is what's known as community policing. Helped by the additional COPS provided under President Clinton's Crime Bill, Boston, and many other communities in Massachusetts, have reoriented policing to solve problems, rather then simply react to 911 calls.
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But, in Boston, the concept of community policing has been expanded to include other parts of the criminal justice system, in particular the prosecutors. Prosecutors, even federal prosecutors, now see their role as pro-actively solving problems and making things safer in the community, not just handling a conveyor belt of cases. As you know, President Clinton has asked for $200 million in his FY 2000 budget to fund the hiring of tough-on-crime prosecutors who can work on key community crime problems such as guns, gangs and drugs. Deputy Attorney General Eric Holderwho pioneered such a project in Washington, DC when he was U.S. Attorneyis spearheading that effort for the Department.
The final part of building partnerships, and perhaps the most important, is creating working-relationships with the communitywhether it be the religious community, street workers, crime watch groups, or public housing tenant organizations. The success of Boston is due as much to these community based efforts as it is to anything law enforcement has done or can do.
2. Rethink Roles
The second reason for Boston's success is that people have been willing to step outside of their traditional roles and in some cases blur what were often thought to be bright line distinctions. Police have gotten out of patrol cars and are listening at community meetings. Prosecutors are in the neighborhoods and the schools. Probation officers have come out from behind their desks and are making home visits. They ride along in police cars so that the people they supervise know that they are out therewatching.
Page 115 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Community groups are actively cooperating with the police. Ministers have descended from the pulpit and are walking the streets. And the list goes on.
3. Focus and Targeted Law Enforcement Strategy
If some of this talk of co-operation and community based justice sounds vague and soft, let me clear that up right now. The third and essential leg of the Boston strategy is aggressive, focused and targeted prosecution and law enforcement. This means determining who are the relatively small number of violent criminals in Boston and going after them with the combined fire power of local, state and federal law enforcement.
While in many cases, this will mean state prosecution, a critical part of the strategy is federal prosecutionwith long sentences and no parole. in Boston, the federal priorities in this area are three-fold.
First, we are targeting gun traffickers, those who illegally sell guns, seemingly oblivious to the deadly consequences.
Secondly, we are going after repeat violent offenderscriminals who have racked up many convictions and seem to recycle through the state system.
Third, we are picking off organized violent gangs, usually for drug and fire arms offenses, but sometimes for murder.
This approach is premised on a few simple facts. Youth homicides are concentrated in neighborhoods that have probably less than 75 gangs, involving approximately 1,300 youth. Although gang turfs constitute less than four percent of the city, they account for 25 percent of 8oston's serious crime.
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Most youth living in these ''hot spots'' are well known to the criminal justice system. Indeed, 7S percent of known homicide offenders and victims had been arraigned for at least one offense.
We have made no secret of this strategydubbed operation Ceasefire. In fact, a key component is that the entire law enforcement communitylocal, state and federaldeliver a unified, clear message that unless the violence stops, gang members will be subject to an intense level of scrutiny. Gang members are explicitly told, often in face-to-face meetings, that they have a basic choicestop the flow of guns and stop the violence or face rapid, focused and comprehensive enforcement.
In certain instances, it means long federal sentences. One such case involved a 24 Year old man who, as an,adult, had 15 prior state felony convictions, almost half of which were for crimes of violence or drugs. He was stopped by a Boston officer, after handing off a gun to a juvenile. He still had a single bullet which he was brazenly tossing in his hand.
What he didn't realize is that, as a felon, the possession of ammunition violates federal law. After conviction, he was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison. At sentencing, the Judge made clear that this long sentence was imposed because he was a career violent criminal. The result was widely publicized by the Boston Police Department, through word of mouth and handbills. This informal but direct publicity is important.
I note that the state recently adopted its own Armed Career Criminal Act, with a mandatory 3-year sentence with one prior drug distribution or violent crime conviction, mandatory 10-year sentence with two prior convictions, and mandatory 15-year sentence with three prior convictions. It is too soon to see how it will be implemented, but the ability of the state to prosecute some of these cases, with equivalent sentences, may have a bearing on our strategy.
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Mr. MCCOLLUM. I will yield myself 5 minutes of such time as I might consume. We appreciate your being here today.
You have expressed some concern about the possibility that there would be an undue burden placed on local U.S. Attorneys and Assistant U.S. Attorneys by any agreements that would be present in this bill between the State and the Federal Prosecutors on prosecuting these gun crimes, which is an alternative way of States complying.
I read this as something that is a two-way street. You could haven't have the agreement if your U.S. Attorney didn't enter into that agreement, or the Justice Department didn't enter into that agreement. Surely if you don't have the resources, we ought to hear from you about it. If you want to enter into the agreements, or you don't want to enter into them, you would have the right, I believe under this, not to have to do that.
I just point that out. I don't know if you thought about that when you made this presentation, but that would be intent of the committee. There would be no forcing of U.S. Attorneys to actually do this. It would be a way for the States to gain support if you saw fit into that agreement. Do you have a thought about that?
Mr. HOLTON. I appreciate that point and I have a thought about it. Our shared goal is to reduce gun violence in this country. We all agree on that. My concern, in part, is that Project Exile has been extremely successful. It is a program the Justice Department supports, it has been groundbreaking and it has worked well in Richmond.
Page 118 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It is not the only approach that has proven successful. Our approach in High Point is very much based upon the approach we took with Operation Ceasefire in Boston which was not so much based upon the mandatory minimum provision but there were other strategies utilized to reduce homicides in that respect.
My concern is that, if as a U.S. Attorney, I do not reach such an agreement with my State and local counterparts, I am somewhat hamstrung because I still do not have additional ATF agents, I still do not have additional prosecutors at the State or local levels to try cases.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Your point is well made. I don't know that these are either/or propositions. That is why I asked the question. I don't think you have an objection, from what I am hearing, to what we are proposing on the merits. You are expressing the concern that somehow by passing this bill, we won't be assisting in providing additional resources, which I can assure you through the Appropriations Committee in particular, I argue for every year with Mr. Rogers who chairs that subcommittee. I would be glad to go over there for those resources for you, and ATF, again this time.
I do think this bill has merit and I don't think you are really criticizing the bill today. I think you are raising concerns that somehow this bill might supplant the resources, or be an excuse not to give them. That sounds like what I am hearing from you today.
Mr. HOLTON. We certainly support the goal and we recognize the merit of the bill in providing support for our State and local colleagues. We think that is a very important thing to do. However, we believe there are other ways to do that which the committee should seriously consider, as Congressman Scott mentioned earlier, providing them additional prosecutors would be of major importance in our district.
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Mr. MCCOLLUM. Let me ask you this. Are you aware of the drop in Federal gun prosecutions from 1992 to 1997, Title XVIII, Sections 922 and 924, Prosecutions?
Mr. HOLTON. Mr. Chairman, I think there was a decline in Federal prosecutions from 1992 to 1997. I think it is also significant that last year, 1999, we brought more Federal gun cases than we have including 1992, with an equal number of defendants. We did so in a context of a 35 percent decrease in the number of offenses that were being committed. So the percentage of cases prosecuted in Federal Court were higher, the numbers of cases were higher.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. I am not going to argue with that. I am just curious if you know what caused the reduction in those five preceding years. Obviously somebody came along and was trying to remedy that in the last couple of years. You have been around long enough to have some idea. Did you have to get down in the trenches and fight for this? How come we didn't have the prosecutions in those 5 years?
Mr. HOLTON. I will tell you from my own experience what happened in my office briefly.
In 1995, when the Bailey opinion was rendered, we saw a 330 percent increase in our 2255 petitions that we had to answer. With 20 lawyers, everyone in the office, including me, was involved in responding to these petitions. I know this committee was instrumental later in enacting legislation that put the 1 year limit on a defendant's ability to do that.
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At the time we had to review every 924(c) case we had had; we had to defend these petitions and these convictions, many of which had already been upheld on appeal. It was an enormous drain on our office. It also caused some concern as to what is a proper charging decision in the period when Bailey was in effect and before it was remedied. Again, I thank this committee for remedying that concern, when possession of a firearm was not an offense anymore in connection with a drug trafficking violation, a crime of violence, as we had been prosecuting those cases. Bailey required brandishing the firearm.
It changed our ability to charge under 924(c). I can't necessarily speak for the whole country but I will say for my office, it caused serious concern. That has been remedied. We appreciate that remedy.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. We certainly worked hard with you to do that.
I have exhausted my time. Mr. Scott, you are recognized.
Mr. SCOTT. Mr. Holton, the senior district judge in the United States District Court Eastern District of Virginia wrote the Chief Justice of the United States the following:
Your year end report on the Judiciary turning local crimes into Federal crimes sadly illustrates what has occurred in the Richmond Division of the Eastern District of Virginia. Through an initiative called Project Exile our court has been transformed into a minor grade State police court with more 200 gun possession cases totally lacking in Federal significance which have been processed through our court. Not only does this do violence to concepts of Federalism, the cost to the national taxpayers is at least three times more than if the Commonwealth of Virginia handled these cases.
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I also regret to report that my State judicial colleagues say they would impose a sentence roughly equivalent to Federal sentences if the Commonwealth attorneys were energetic enough to process the cases locally. I hear rumors that Project Exile type programs may be undertaken in every major city.
That was written January 4, 1999. Do you have a response?
Mr. HOLTON. Congressman Scott, Project Exile has been effective in Richmond, Virginia and we recognize that fact, but we also recognize that the circumstances in Richmond are not necessarily the same as the circumstances in High Point, North Carolina.
Mr. SCOTT. Where should routine gun crimes be prosecuted?
Mr. HOLTON. One of the things we have tried to do is prosecute the worst first. So a routine gun crime by a worst career offender, in my estimation, should be prosecuted in Federal court. A routine gun crime by a nonviolent felon who has maybe one prior conviction is a situation where we appreciate the flexibility to discuss with our State district attorneys and our State colleagues and make a decision as to what the most effective forum is for that person.
Mr. SCOTT. Where is the Federal interest in that, by the way?
Mr. HOLTON. I don't think I am arguing with you but I think the Federal interest, from my perspective, for example in our High Point strategy, is different than Project Exile. We did not feel the need to take every gun case into Federal court. We took some of the cases but we had the flexibility to work with our district attorney and work that out.
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Mr. SCOTT. I think you indicated that the mandatory minimums were not appropriate in all circumstances. Is that your testimony?
Mr. HOLTON. No, sir, that was not my testimony on that point.
Mr. SCOTT. Can you make a comment on mandatory minimums? Are they appropriate in call cases?
Mr. HOLTON. Under Federal law, mandatory minimums are contained only in 924(c). I think Congress has determined that they are not appropriate in the 922 cases, a felon in possession. I think by the legislative acts of Congress, they are not appropriate in all cases.
Mr. SCOTT. The thing about mandatory minimums is once you have the case charged, you know what the sentence is going to be?
Mr. HOLTON. Correct.
Mr. SCOTT. So essentially you are doing the sentencing and not the judge, right?
Mr. HOLTON. I think essentially the Congress is dictating what the sentence will be.
Page 123 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SCOTT. Which is even worse, the Congress is deciding the sentence before you decide to prosecute and before the judge has heard the case. Does it make more sense to let the judge apply an appropriate, common sense punishment or for Congress to decide in advance what the sentence ought to be regardless of the individual circumstances of the crime?
Mr. HOLTON. The tough penalties are important and we recognize that fact. We have been effective and I believe we have been effective in High Point under the 922 statute which does not carry a mandatory minimum. We have been effective in getting appropriate sentences based upon the criminal history of the offender in those instances.
Mr. SCOTT. What other things actually result in a reduction in crime?
Mr. HOLTON. To me, the most important word is partnership. We have heard about it in Richmond, we heard about it in Boston, partnership with our State and local law enforcement but much beyond that, partnership with individuals like Reverend Fails who will testify later. Reverend Fails and I have no real disagreement on who the worst offenders are, we have no disagreement on who needs to go away for a long period of time. We also share the belief that there are other methods, prevention and intervention methods, that are proven effective that we are trying to combine with these strategies.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you, Mr. Scott.
Page 124 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GEKAS. You have stated in different ways that you commend what has happened in Richmond and the testimony of Governor Gilmore. That has to do with the pursuit of the law that is on the books now that facilitates exile in Richmond.
You also state that the High Point experience in Ceasefire, is it?
Mr. HOLTON. We call it our High Point Violent Reduction Strategy but it is similar to Operation Ceasefire that was done in Boston.
Mr. GEKAS. And that is pursuant to a law that is already on the books that you are following and supplementing and trying to improve as you go along, correct?
Mr. HOLTON. Yes, sir.
Mr. GEKAS. So your lamentI call it a lamentabout the fact you may not have as many ATF agents or prosecutors as you might want, even if you got all you wanted tomorrow, they would be utilized in enforcing the High Point initiatives to which you have alluded, correct?
Mr. HOLTON. Yes, sir.
Mr. GEKAS. No further questions.
Mr. HOLTON. May I add a comment to that as well?
Page 125 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MCCOLLUM. Yes, sir.
Mr. HOLTON. I do agree that we are enforcing current laws and we are proud of that record of enforcement, but there are other areas where we could use some help. For example, one third of the guns in this country are not purchased from Federal firearm licensees and to close that loophole, to close the gun show loophole, those types of measures would make us more effective.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Ms. Jackson Lee, I don't know how much time we have left, but I will be glad to recognize you or we can come back.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I will ask one question. I want to thank the gentleman for his leadership and the collaboration that you have evidence.
If this legislation was to pass and you, meaning the U.S. Attorney's Office had no more resources, how difficult would that be?
Mr. HOLTON. Frankly, Ms. Jackson Lee, I do not know what we would do. We have to make tough priority decisions. Congressman Coble used to work in this office with some of the same people years ago. We have to make tough decisions on a daily about priorities.
As I said, in my office we have 20 lawyers total, we have 2 million people in the districts, 85 police departments, 24 sheriff departments. So the balloon can only squeeze so far when it comes to prosecutions. I honestly don't know how we would do it.
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Ms. JACKSON LEE. It would be somewhat overwhelming. I want to study High Point, North Carolina further and I do thank you for your testimony.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you, Ms. Jackson Lee. Mr. Coble for the last word?
Mr. COBLE. We have a vote. I can get with you back at home. I was concerned about the reduction in prosecutions from 1992 to 1997. I am pleased about the increase since then. I would like to go into some detail, I don't think we can do it today about why that reduction and why the increase in the last 2 years.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Unfortunately we don't have the time, we have to go vote, unless we keep Mr. Holton and I don't want to have to do that.
We are going to excuse you at this time and thank you for coming.
The next panel will reconvene as soon as these votes are over. I expect about a half hour, maybe a little longer. There are five votes now in order on the floor and the House's business should be done when final passage is completed, which we all keep our fingers crossed isn't very long.
We thank you for your patience today and we will recess until the votes are finished.
Page 127 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [Recess.]
Mr. MCCOLLUM. The committee will come to order.
We are now prepared to call our third and final panel of the day. Unfortunately we had all these votes and members are scattered to the four winds but I know at least two or three more are coming back.
The first witness on our third and final panel is Mr. Rick Castaldo, father of Richard Castaldo, a student from Columbine High School who was left paralyzed from the chest down as a result of last April's tragic Columbine shooting.
Mr. Castaldo is an electrical engineer who served in the U.S. Navy for 8 years, the Federal Aviation Administration for 10 years and is now an engineer with Census Corporation.
Our second witness on the panel is Ms. Mary Leigh Blek, president and founding member, National Board of Directors, Bell Campaign, whose mission is to prevent gun death and injury, and to support the victims and survivors of gun trauma.
The Bleks founded Orange County Citizens for Prevention of gun violence in memory of their 21 year old son, Matthew, who was murdered during an attempted robbery in New York City in June 1994 by a criminal who used a hand gun.
Ms. Leigh Blek is a registered nurse with a specialization in public health and a graduate of the University of California at Los Angeles.
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Our next witness is Michael T. McCaul, Special Assistant Attorney General, Office of the Texas Attorney General. Mr. McCaul currently serves as the Project Director for Texas Exile. He also oversees criminal prosecutions in civil litigation by the Attorney General's Office.
Previously, Mr. McCaul served as a trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice in both the Criminal Division's Public Integrity Section and the Civil Division's Tort Section.
Our next witness is Mr. Ken Sukhia, partner, Law Firm of Fowler, White, Gillen, Boggs, Villareal and Banker in Tallahassee, Florida. Prior to this, Mr. Sukhia served as United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida during the Bush administration.
In his capacity, Mr. Sukhia initiated the aggressive prosecution of repeat violent offenders and his district was among the most productive in the Nation at or near the top in defendants tried and money recovered. During his tenure, the Northern District also imposed the toughest sentences in the Nation with average sentences nearly double the national average.
Mr. Sukhia was also a key part of Project Triggerlock's success.
Our next witness is Dr. Garen Wintemute, director, Violence Prevention Research Program, University of California, Davis. His research focuses on the nature and prevention of violence and on the development of effective violence prevention measures.
Page 129 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC One of his most recent studies includes an assessment of the risk for criminal activity among legal purchasers of handguns, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998.
Dr. Wintemute has served as a consultant for the National Institute of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and was named a hero of medicine by Time Magazine.
Our next witness is the Reverend William Fails from High Point, North Carolina. Rev. Fails is currently pastor of the Greater First United Baptist Church. He has been a leader in community crime prevention efforts in his home city, and has worked closely with U.S. Attorney Holton to develop and run the gun violence initiative in High Point.
Rev. Fails is a member of numerous grassroots advocacy groups including Ministers Conference of High Point, Citizens United for Justice and the Violent Crime Task Force of High Point.
Our final witness is Ms. Kristen Rand, director of federal policy for the Violence Policy Center. Ms. Rand is responsible for the Violence Policy Center's policymaker education efforts and directs the organization's research on Federal firearms policy.
Ms. Rand is the author of ''Gun Shows in America, Tupperware Parties for Criminals,'' and the 1995 study, ''Lawyers, Guns and Money, The Impact of Tort Restrictions on Firearm Safety and Gun Control.'' Ms. Rand's writings on the second amendment have appeared in various publications.
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I do see we have been joined by the Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia. We are delighted that you are here, the Honorable Mark Earley. Mr. Earley was elected in November 1997 after 15 years in private practice and 10 years in the Virginia Senate.
As Attorney General, he launched his Task Force on Gangs and Youth Violence to address the problems of juvenile violence in Virginia. The Task Force was comprised of parents, law enforcement, school officials, business community leaders and clergy and is holding summits around the Commonwealth to solicit the input of concerned citizens.
Mr. Earley is also co-chair of Governor Gilmore's new partnership initiative to fight crime in Virginia and has been a key part of Project Exile's successful implementation in Virginia.
Mr. SCOTT. Could I add an additional welcome to the Attorney General from the Commonwealth. We served together for several of those years he was in the State Senate, we both served on the Courts of Justice Committee, fought many battles together and it is a pleasure to welcome him.
Mr. COBLE. If I may extend another welcome to Reverend Fails who hails from High Point in my district. It is good to have you here.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. I don't want to overlook Mr. Terwilliger. George Terwilliger has been with us several times in the past. George Terwilliger is a partner with McGuire Woods, Battle and Boothe. Mr. Terwilliger was Deputy Attorney General of the United States during the Bush administration and also served as the Acting U.S. Attorney General. In that capacity, he was a key part of Project Triggerlock, an extremely successful gun prosecution effort that in many ways was the forerunner of Project Exile.
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Currently, Mr. Terwilliger represents clients in domestic and international investigations, prosecutions and other litigation arising under Federal criminal and civil enforcement statutes.
Prior to his duties in Washington, Mr. Terwilliger served for 5 years as the United States Attorney for Vermont.
We want to thank the entire panel for being here with us today. With unanimous consent, your entire statements will be put in the record. We would ask that you summarize. We have a lot of witnesses today and it is quite a lengthy one, so we would like to try to abide by 5 minutes each for the presentations.
We will start with Mr. Castaldo.
STATEMENT OF RICK CASTALDO, COLUMBINE, CO
Mr. CASTALDO. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I thank you for the opportunity to come before you and speak about my support of H.R. 4051.
On April 20, 1999, my son, Richard, was having lunch with a classmate, Rachel Scott, outside the library of Columbine High School Richard was shot eight times and is now paralyzed from the chest down. Rachel was not so luck, she died while lying next to my son.
Page 132 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Rachel's father testified in this very room shortly after the incident. Like me, he does not blame the guns. I believe there are a number of factors and cultural influences that affect young people today. Mr. Scott spoke of the loss of faith and the denigration of God in some circles of modern America. Many of us speak about the influences of the media, music and movies on our teenagers. Many of our political leaders ignore the effect these influences have on young people and continue to blame this behavior, like Columbine, solely on guns. This is clearly wrong in my opinion. It is the failure to identify and address the root cause of this behavior that I find dishonest.
Our President has proclaimed ''if only Congress would pass my gun legislation, our children would be safe.'' I find this personally offensive. That the President of the United States can blame the lack of gun laws of which there are already 20,000 for a tragedy like Columbine is ludicrous.
There have been a number of high profile crimes over the past few years but who can blame Oklahoma City bombing on the availability of diesel fuel. It is equal illogical to blame the Columbine on a gun.
Recently in Michigan a 6-year-old murdered a classmate with a gun he brought to school from the crack house that he lived in. The little boy had a history of problems that we will never know about because of privacy concerns. Although there are a number of social programs, child welfare agencies and laws against dealing drugs, possessing guns illegally and abusing or neglecting children, this little boy still lived in a home infested with drugs, illegal weapons and no adult supervision.
Page 133 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It appears that a number of public agencies knew about his situation and did nothing. Yet the only outrage that we saw from some of our elected officials was directed at the gun. President Clinton went so far as to suggest that even people in a crack house would have used the child safety lock, thus preventing the little girl's death.
Do Americans really believe that drug dealers would use child safety locks on illegal weapons or are we so callous to the barrage of rhetoric from our elected leaders that we do not care anymore? No matter, that headline is gone, another will be here tomorrow.
Another recent headline involves a felon turned down for a gun purchase under the Brady bill, who when went out, to an illegal gun and killed more people. If that man had been put in jail where he belonged for violating the law, those people would be alive today. This man broke a Federal law, why didn't our Attorney General or her designee prosecute him? Where is the outrage over that? Why doesn't the media care? Why doesn't Congress, my elected officials hold the Executive Branch accountable? Should we just pass more laws outlawing guns to placate the public, creating a facade for political benefit?
During my son's 4 month hospital stay, he and I talked at length about what is going on in our country today that contributed to Columbine. We came to the conclusion that this is a difficult and convoluted question.
One issue we have resolved amongst ourselves is that more laws will change nothing. It was not normal behavior that two teenagers would construct a number of bombs, gather up weapons and set siege to their school. Thank God the bombs didn't go off, thank God more children didn't die, thank God it wasn't worse.
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What do we do now as rational Americans? My suggestion is rather straightforward. We should consider the causes. By that, I mean we should ask the following question: What on earth causes two, upper middle class students to concoct and carry out such a plan? For all practical purposes, these boys had in tact households, after school jobs, good grades and caring parents. However, they were intent on doing their fellow students harm. Why? Was it the treatment by fellow students that they received, being taunted, being disparaged, being outcasts?
Was it the solace they found in Internet chat rooms, visualizign death for their tormentors? Was it the violent video game, Doom, that they mentioned throughout their infamous videotapes? Was it the constant messages in the music they listened to? Why didn't the sheriff's department act on the website information that they had? Why didn't the school think it odd that two students would produce a video about murdering fellow students? Was it within your freedom of speech? Has this contributed to the perverse, permissive behavior?
These are all difficult and controversial problems to address. It is far easier to blame it on guns. That makes it simple to sell on TV.
How do we send a message to criminals? How do we communicate to the public that we are serious about solving the crime problem? One way is clear, swift and tough prosecution of laws that we already have in this country.
In New York City, thanks to a tough law and order Mayor, violent crime is down over 30 percent. This alone accounts for a substantial drop in the U.S. crime rate. The President has taken credit for the drop in violent crime in the U.S. but I give credit to the Governors, Attorneys General, Mayors and prosecutors who have taken a renewed look at prosecuting the people who break our laws. Nothing could be more simple and nothing has had more of an impact on crime.
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Many would take exception to enforcing laws. Perhaps it is a philosophical difference between what we call the left and right in this country. I call it cleaning up the criminals. In Virginia, where I have lived for 8 years, Project Exile has worked what I consider miracles in Richmond. I have visited my State's capital a few times and I must admit I did not stay in town after dark. I no longer worry about heading home at dusk; homicides are down over 40 percent, gun crimes over 50 percent, assaults are down and all this because people are being put in jail for breaking the law. What a novel idea. How many people in jail are not now on the street to commit crimes?
Finally, in Washington, DC, where there are some of the most stringent gun laws in the Nation, gun-related crimes continue, many for repeat offenders. Does our lax enforcement contribute to the mentality that would-be criminals developso what if I break the law, they say. I will get a slap on the hand and go about my way. Do our children take on these attitudes? I suspect they do.
In closing, I would like to say the criminals will not change their behavior until we change ours. Let us eliminate the possibility that lax enforcement breeds contempt and support mandatory sentences for criminals who use guns.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for introducing this bill which gives States the incentive to broaden this program which is already providing meaningful results.
Thank you for allowing me to testify today.
Page 136 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Mr. Castaldo follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF RICK CASTALDO, COLUMBINE, CO
Mr.Chairman and Members of the Committee,
I thank you for the opportunity to come before you and speak about my support of H.R. 4051, ''Project Exile: The Safe Streets and Neighborhoods Act of 2000.''
On April 20th of last year, my son Richard was having lunch with a classmate, Rachel Scott, outside the Library of Columbine high school. Richard was shot eight times and is now paralyzed from the chest down. Rachel was not so lucky; she died while lying next to my son.
Rachel's father testified in this very room shortly after the incident. Like me, he does not blame the guns. I believe that there are a number of factors and cultural influences that affect young people today. Mr. Scott spoke of the loss of faith and the denigration of God in some circles of modern America. Many of us speak about the influences of the media, music and movies on our teenagers. Many of our political leaders ignore the effect that these influences have on young people and continue to blame this behavior, like Columbine, solely on guns. This, in my opinion, is clearly wrong. It is the failure to identify and address the root cause of this behavior that I find dishonest. Our President has stood up and proclaimed, ''if only congress would pass my gun legislation, our children would be safe''. I find this personally offensive. That the President of the United States can blame the lack of gun laws, of which there are already 20,000, for a tragedy like Columbine, is ludicrous.
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Shortly after the Columbine shooting, my son Richard, while in intensive care, asked me how many laws were broken. I was told by the district attorney that there were at least seventeen federal laws broken. I could not even count the vast number of state laws that applied. Richard had been asked, by members of the media and some of our elected officials, about his position regarding ''gun control.'' His response showed that the wisdom of youth frequently exceeds our own. ''What good would a few more laws do?'' he asked. ''What causes kids to do something like this?''
There have been a number of high profile crimes over the past few years. But who can blame the Oklahoma City bombing on the availability of diesel fuel? It is equally illogical to blame Columbine on a gun.
Recently, in Michigan, a six-year-old murdered a classmate with a gun he brought to school from the crack house that he lived in. The little boy had a history of problems that we will never know about because of privacy concerns. Although there are a number of social programs, child welfare agencies, and laws against dealing drugs, possessing guns illegally, and abusing or neglecting children, this little boy still lived in a home infested with drugs, illegal weapons, and no adult supervision. It appears that a number of public agencies knew about his situation and did nothing. Yet, the only outrage that we saw from some of our elected officials was directed at the gun. President Clinton went so far as to suggest that even people in a crack house would have used a child safety lock, thus preventing the little girl's death. Do Americans really believe that drug dealers would use child safety locks on illegal weapons, or are we so callused to the barrage of rhetoric from our elected leaders that we do not care anymore? No matter, that headline is gone, another will be here tomorrow.
Page 138 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Another recent headline involves a felon, turned down for a gun purchase under the Brady Bill, who went out, got an illegal gun and killed more people. If that man had been put in jail where he belonged for violating the law, those people would be alive today. This man broke a federal law, why didn't our Attorney General, or her designee, prosecute him? Where is the outrage over that? Why doesn't the media care? Why doesn't Congress, my elected officials, hold the Executive branch accountable? Should we just pass more laws outlawing guns to placate the public, creating a faade for political benefit?
During my son's four month hospital stay, he and I talked at length about what has gone on in our country today that contributed to Columbine. We came to the conclusion that this is a difficult and convoluted question. One issue that we have resolved amongst ourselves is that more laws will change nothing. It was not normal behavior that two teenagers would construct a number of bombs, gather up weapons, and set siege to their school. Thank God that their bombs didn't go off. Thank God that more children didn't die. Thank God it wasn't worse.
So what do we do now as rational Americans? My suggestion is rather straightforward. We should consider the causes. By that I mean we should ask the following question: What on Earth causes two upper middle class students to concoct and carry out such a plan? For all practical purposes, these boys had intact households, after school jobs, good grades, and caring parents. However, they were intent on doing their fellow students harm. Why?
Was it the treatment by fellow students that they received, being taunted, being disparaged, being outcasts? Was it the solace they found in Internet chat rooms, visualizing death for their tormentors. Was it the violent video game ''Doom'' that they mentioned throughout their infamous videotapes? Was it the constant messages in the music they listened to? Why didn't the Sheriff's department act on the Web Site information they had? Why didn't the school think it odd that two students would produce a video about murdering fellow students? Was it within their freedom of speech? Has this contributed to the perverse, permissive behavior? These are all difficult and controversial problems to address.
Page 139 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
It is far easier to blame it on guns. It makes it simple to sell on TV.
So how do we send a message to criminals? How do we communicate to the public that we are serious about solving the crime problem? One way is clear: swift and tough prosecution of laws that we already have in this country.
In New York City, thanks to a tough, ''law and order'' mayor, violent crime is down over thirty percent. This alone accounts for a substantial drop in the U.S. crime rate. The President has taken credit for the drop in violent crime in the U.S., but I give the credit to the governors, attorneys general, mayors and prosecutors who have taken a renewed look at prosecuting the people who break our laws. Nothing could be more simple, and nothing has had more of an impact in crime. Many would take exception to enforcing laws; perhaps it is a philosophical difference between what we call the left and right in this country. I call it cleaning up the criminals.
In Virginia, where I have lived for eight years, Project Exile has worked what I consider miracles in Richmond. I have visited my State's capital a few times. And I must admit, I did not stay in town after dark. I no longer worry about heading home at dusk. Homicides are down over 40%. Gun crimes over 50%, assaults are down, and all this because people are being put in jail for breaking the law. What a novel idea. How many people in jail are not now on the street to commit crimes?
Finally, in Washington D.C., where there are some of the most stringent gun laws in the nation, gun-related crimes continue, many by repeat offenders. Does our lax enforcement contribute to the mentality that would be criminals develop? ''So what if I break the law,'' they say. ''I'll get a slap on the hand and go about my way.'' Do our children take on these attitudes? I suspect they do.
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In closing, I would like to say that criminals will not change their behavior until we change ours. Let's eliminate the possibility that lax enforcement breeds contempt, and support mandatory sentences for criminals who use guns.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for introducing this bill which will give States the incentive to broaden this program which has already provided meaningful results, and thank you for allowing me to testify today.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Ms. Blek?
STATEMENT OF MARY L. BLEK, PRESIDENT, THE BELL CAMPAIGN
Ms. Blek. Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to speak before this committee.
My name is Mary Leigh Blek and I serve as President of the Bell Campaign, a national chapter-based organization whose mission is to prevent gun death and injury and to support victims and survivors of gun trauma. Our chapters across the United States work to hold the gun industry accountable for the design, manufacture, distribution and promotion of their lethal products and to prevent the easy access and availability of guns in our community, and to advocate for a system of public health surveillance to track and research the tragedy of gun death and injury in our Nation.
Page 141 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Although criminals should and must be punished, we must also work very hard to prevent the gun trauma to begin with. That means closing the gun show loophole, eliminating kitchen table dealerships, stopping gun trafficking and establishing a common sense system of licensing and registration. Without these and other responsible improvements in our gun laws, the carnage will continue.
I want to be very clear that I know that yes, the root causes of violence must be addressed but what makes our violence in America so devastating is the lethal tool, the gun in our society.
Although our organization is non-partisan and approaches gun violence from a public health perspective, I should note for you that I am a lifelong Republican and have lived over 20 years in Orange County, California. I strongly believe that public safety is a proper and necessary role for the national government and we must rise above partisan politics to protect our children.
Please consider the fact that our firearm death rate for our children is 12 times higher than for 25 other industrialized nations combined. It is a shameful statistic. You should also know that 5 years ago, our first borne son, Matthew, was killed by 15-year-old teenage boys wielding a Saturday Night Special handgun. Matthew was a gifted college student and there is not a day that goes by that we don't mourn his loss.
Let me be clear, I do hold the young man who shot my son responsible and accountable for his actions. However, there were more to be held accountable for the death of Matthew. How many adult hands did that gun pass through before reaching this young shooter? What about the lack of background checks at gun shows? What about gun trafficking? What about bulk purchase allowances and poorly supervised gun dealers, especially those allowed in private homes?
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What about the secondary marketing of guns? What about consumer product safety standards? What I learned about the toy light gun that was put to Matthew's head and fired was shocking and despicable. That we would allow a throwaway or disposable gun to be produced and distributed anywhere in this country is just plain wrong.
My husband Charlie and I worked with others in California to establish minimal safety standards for domestic handguns because there were no Federal safety standards. I am pleased to report t you that in California this summer, our Governor did sign a bill that will establish these very minimal standards but it will eliminate the production and sale of Saturday Night Specials in California. My son's teddy bear and crib had more product safety standards than the gun that was used to kill him.
I am not so naive not to know that these gun manufacturers will indeed leave California which is a good thing because at the time of Matthew's death, we produced 80 percent of the Nation's junk guns, but they are going to go to other States and continue the production of Saturday Night Specials.
I am here to say that calling for the establishment of a grant program to provide incentives for States to enact mandatory sentences will do little to prevent the gun deaths and injuries. More importantly, it will divert money and intention from where it truly belongs. What we need are comprehensive and common sense gun policies that include consumer product safety protections, especially in design features to prevent child and other unauthorized use. We must address the many loopholes in our current laws that allow for the distribution of firearms to criminals and prohibited classes of persons.
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It is way past time to hold our gun owners personally accountable and responsible for the possession of their firearms and that means a system where every gun owner is licensed and all guns are registered. If you think this might be a bit inconvenient for your average gun owner, may I suggest to you an other definition of inconvenience? That is having to bury your bullet-riddled child.
I would like to end with a proposition for you. Imagine that we could bring back Matthew and have him before this committee and you could ask him which would you prefer, Matt. Shall we lock up the kid who shot you for more years in jail or should we do everything in our power to make sure another 15 year old never gets a gun in his hand?
[The prepared statement of Ms. Blek follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF MARY L. BLEK, PRESIDENT, THE BELL CAMPAIGN
Thank you for the opportunity to speak before this committee. My name is Mary Leigh Blek and I serve as President of The Bell Campaign, a national victim-led chapter-based grassroots organization whose mission is to prevent gun death and injury and to support victims and survivors of gun trauma. Our chapters across the United States work to prevent the easy access and availability of guns in our communities, to hold the gun industry accountable for the design, manufacture, distribution and promotion of its lethal consumer products and advocate for a national system of public health surveillance to track and research the tragedy of gun injuries and deaths in this nation. Too often these vital needs are overlooked, and H.R. 4051 is no exception. Although criminals should be punished, we must also work very hard to prevent gun trauma in the first place. That means closing the gun show loophole now, eliminating kitchen-table gun dealers, stopping gun trafficking, and establishing a common-sense system of licensing and registration. Without these and other responsible improvements in our gun laws, we cannot stop the carnage.
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Although our organization is nonpartisan and approaches gun violence from a public health perspective, I should note for you that I am a life-long Republican and have lived in Orange County, California, for over twenty years. I strongly believe that public safety is a proper and necessary role for our national government and we must rise above partisan politics to ensure the safety of our families. It is obvious that we are doing a terrible and shameful job of protecting our children. Please consider the fact that our firearm death rate for our children, fourteen years and younger, is twelve times higher than for twenty-five other industrialized nations combined. You should also know that five years ago, our 21-year-old first born son, Matthew, was shot and killed by three 15-year-old boys who attempted to rob him wielding a Saturday night special handgun. Matthew was a gifted college student and was a warm and caring young man. Not a day goes by that I do think about him and mourn his loss to our family.
Let me be clear that I hold the young man who shot my son responsible and accountable for his actions. However, there were many more to be held accountable for the death of Matthew. How many adult hands did that gun pass through before reaching this young shooter? What about the lack of background checks at gun shows? What about gun trafficking, bulk purchases allowances and poorly supervised gun dealers, especially those allowed to sell guns from private residences? What about the secondary marketing of guns? What about consumer product safety standards? What I learned about the toy-like handgun that was put to Matthew's head and fired was shocking and despicable! That we would allow a throw-away or disposable piece of lethal junk to be produced and distributed anywhere in our country is just plain wrong. My husband Charlie and I joined with others in our state of California to establish minimal, and I mean minimal, safety standards for domestic handguns because there are no federal safety standards. Why Matthew's old teddy bear and crib had consumer safety standards, but the gun that was used to kill him had none. Well, last summer our Governor signed a bill that will in effect, get rid of the production and sale of these junk guns in our state because they cannot meet these minimal safety standards. This is a tremendous victory, because at the time of Matthew's death, California produced 80% of our nation's junk guns that are used disproportionately in crime, especially youth crime. But the victory is bittersweet, because there are still no federal safety standards and these manufacturers will likely move on to another state and continue producing Saturday night specials.
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So I am here today to say that calling for the establishment of a grant program to provide incentives for states to enact mandatory minimum sentences will do little to prevent gun deaths and injuries. More importantly, it will divert money and attention from where it truly belongs. What we need are comprehensive and common sense gun policies that include consumer product safety protections, especially in design features to prevent child and other unauthorized use. We must address the many loopholes in our current laws that allow for the distribution of firearms to criminals and prohibited classes of persons. It is way past time to hold gun owners personally accountable and responsible for the possession of firearms and that means a system where all gun owners are licensed and all guns are registered. If you think that this might be a bit inconvenient for your average gun owner, I have a different definition of inconvenience: It is having to bury your dead child.
I have a proposition for you. Imagine for a moment that we could bring Matthew back from the dead and have him appear before you today. What do you think he would say if you asked him, ''Which would you prefer, Matt? Shall we lock up the kid who shot you for more years in jail or should we do all in our power to ensure that a 15-year old kid never gets his hands on a gun again?'' I think we all know the answer.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you, Ms. Blek.
Page 146 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSTATEMENT OF MARK EARLEY, ATTORNEY GENERAL, COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, RICHMOND, VA
Mr. EARLEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It is good to be with you and I appreciate being invited to participate. It is great to see Congressman Scott again.
You heard from our Governor earlier today and I will try not to be repetitive. I'd like to add the additional perspective on Project Exile in Virginia is our experience specifically with the Richmond Pilot Program which then became the model for Virginia Exile which I think House Bill 4051 hopes to get other States to emulate.
Richmond, unfortunately for many, many years, was known as the murder capital of the world. Our per capita murder rate was astoundingly high. It not only had a tragic impact on the downtown area of Richmond and economic development, but it clearly had a very tragic impact on the lives of many, many victims and many, many families.
This project actually began in late 1997 under the leadership of Helen Fahey, the U.S. Attorney in Richmond and her deputy, Jim Comey, who I might add was at William & Mary, Congressman.
The focus was fairly simple and it was to take laws that had been passed by this Congress in the late 1960's and basically attempt to enforce them. The law was basically if you are a felon and carry a gun, you will go to jail. If you are a drug dealer and carry a gun, you will go to jail. If you are a drug user and carry a gun, you will go to jail, or if you have been convicted of domestic abuse and carry a gun, you will go to jail. The latter I believe was actually added by Congress in the early 1990's or late 1980's.
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What has been nothing short of astounding. We began to participate with the U.S. Attorney's Office in early 1998. It became clear to us that obviously since the State had an interest, it would make sense for our office to dedicate a full-time Assistant Attorney General to help prosecute these gun crimes in the City of Richmond which we did and continue to do to this point.
The results were, the first year the murder rate in Richmond dropped 33 percent; the next year, 1998, it dropped another 21 percent; and this year, we are down even again, the first quarter of this year, January through March, there have been 11 murders in the City of Richmond. That compares with 22 a year ago. So a 50 percent drop in 2 years and the decline is continuing on track this year.
I think the reason it has worked is fairly simple but important. The first is that it separates the criminals who carry guns from their guns. Secondly, it then separates those criminals from the community and the average sentence is 59 months, almost 5 years.
Over the last 2 years, in terms of the numbers, 719 guns have been confiscated in Project Exile cases alone and over 439 individuals have been sentenced, with an average of 56 months.
The reason it has worked is in addition to separating these individuals from their guns and from their communities, there has been a very, very strong social marketing campaign and I don't think that can be underestimated or forgotten. I think it is an important piece of the legislation you all are considering.
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The sign you see before me is actually a reproduction of what is a shrink wrap around buses in the City of Richmond''An illegal gun gets you 5 years in jail. Call 1800Project Exile.'' These travel around the city fairly notoriously all the time. In addition to that, there have been public service advertisements on TV and radio that have been very, very effective.
It has not only been removing the gun carrying criminals off the street but this social marketing campaign that has penetrated down to the street level where the Richmond City police estimate that the gun carry rate has dropped by about 30 percent. That I believe is very responsible for the drop in the homicide rates as well.
We support your effort. We think what we saw in Richmond was a great collaboration between the Federal, the State and the local law enforcement authorities, the Commonwealth Attorney and the City of Richmond participates as we do. They have a full time prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office as well, both of which are sworn as Special U.S. Attorneys, the Chief of Police in Richmond. It is a great example of a partnership and I think the kind of thing your bill will allow for is not only States passing some very model laws but I think it will facilitate that kind of cooperation between the State, Federal and local authorities.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Earley follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF MARK EARLEY, ATTORNEY GENERAL, COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, RICHMOND, VA
My name is Mark Earley and I am the Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia. For many years, it is hard to believe, the capital of Richmond was called the murder capital. And it was because, of the major cities in the U.S., we bore a very dishonorable distinction and that was having an incredible number of murders, per capita, in our city. In fact, it peaked in 1997 with 140 homicides.
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Under the leadership of Helen Fahey, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Project Exile was implemented and the results have been dramatic.
What is Project Exile? It is a partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement authorities to aggressively prosecute the illegal possession and use of guns by criminals. If you are a felon with a conviction, you will go to jail if you possess a gun. If you have been convicted of domestic abuse and you possess a gun, you will go to jail. If you are a drug dealer with a gun, you will go to jail. And if you use drugs illegally, and have a gun, you will go to jail. These are federal laws that have been passed that, with their aggressive enforcement under Project Exile, have had dramatic results. These call for mandatory prison sentences and the average sentence is 56 monthsjust shy of 5 years.
Added to that stiff punishment is the fact that while awaiting trial, there is generally no bail. There is a presumption that you do not qualify for bail if you are arrested. And it is called Project Exile because if you are convicted in the City of Richmond under Project Exile for one of these crimes, you, in fact, are going to be exiled to a federal prison far away from your community and friends and where you are threatening the public.
Has it worked? The answer is absolutely yes. From 1997 to 1998, the homicide rate in Richmond dropped a precipitous 33 percent. From 1998 to 1999 it dropped another 21 percent. And we are continuing to drive down the numbers this year.
Seven-hundred-nineteen guns have been removed from the hands of criminals. Four hundred thirty nine individuals have been convicted, again with an average sentence of 56 months.
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Why has it worked? It is really very simple. We have separated the criminals from their guns. We have then separated the criminals from their community and we are aggressively reminding people through a very strong social marketing campaign that an illegal gun gets you five years in prison.
The sign that you see on the table here this afternoon is also a shrink-wrap that exists on several major mass transit buses in Richmond. When the Richmond Police now arrest people for gun crimes, and other crimes, when they ask them if they have a gun, they say, ''Are you kidding? I don't carry a gun in Richmond anymore because of that Project Exile.'' They have gotten the message.
What has been our role in the Attorney General's Office in the state of Virginia? Working with Helen Fahey and her staff, we have dedicated a full-time Assistant Attorney General to the U.S. Attorney's Office to prosecute these gun crimes and it has been a remarkable partnership. We have two of our prosecutors, our Assistant Attorneys General, here with us this afternoon, Michael Hosang and Richard Campbell, who have done an outstanding job working with the outstanding prosecutors in Ms. Fahey's office. We plan to continue working with them in the future.
Also, we have had tremendous support from the local Commonwealth's Attorney. The Commonwealth's Attorney for the City of Richmond, David Hicks, has dedicated a full-time local prosecutor to work with the U.S. Attorney's Office. His prosecutor and mine have been sworn in by the U.S. Attorney's Office to practice in their office.
Page 151 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Our Governor recognized what all of you will recognize in a few short moments, and that is, if this is working so well in the City of Richmond, why should it not be available to every county, city and town in the state of Virginia and, for that matter, throughout the United States?
Working under that presumption, the Governor introduced Virginia Exile and it was passed by the legislature overwhelmingly in 1999. It was bipartisansupported by Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike. And now in Virginia we have laws that mirror and, in some cases, are tougher than the federal laws.
Under Virginia Exile, if you have a prior conviction for a violent felony and you are convicted of possessing a firearm, you will go to jail for a mandatory 5 years. If you are convicted of possessing a firearm on school properly with the intent to use or display it in a threatening manner, you will go to jail for 5 years. And, if you are convicted of possessing a firearm with illegal drugs, you are looking at no less than 5 years in prison.
We have taken a page out of the Project Exile program that Helen Fahey implemented in Richmond and we have an aggressive social marketing program around the state. We now have signs on Interstates 64, 81 and 95 as you enter the state of Virginia advising everyone that an illegal gun in Virginia will get you a mandatory prison sentence. That is now the law in Virginia.
In short, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, this kind of partnership with the federal, state and local prosecutors and law enforcement authorities is having a dramatic effect and it is having a dramatic effect for a very common-sense reason, and that is we are saying to the criminals that if you possess a gun in any sense illegally, you will go to jail. And I think the results are indisputable and provide a model not only for other United States Attorney's offices around the nation, but certain other attorneys general.
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I have shared with other attorneys general what we are doing in Virginia. The Attorney General of South Carolina, Charlie Condon, and the Attorney General of Texas, John Cornyn, are implementing similar programs as we speak in their states and we hope that we can get the cooperation of Attorneys General nationwide to work with their U.S. Attorneys to implement the same kind of partnership.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Mr. McCaul?
STATEMENT OF MICHAEL T. MCCAUL, SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, AUSTIN, TX
Mr. MCCAUL. In addition to Virginia, I would like to submit it is also Texas day.
I am honored to represent Texas Attorney General John Cornyn before this committee in support of this bill which addresses an issue that is perhaps more important than any other and that is gun violence.
In 30 minutes today, one person will be murdered, 30 robberies will be committed and 5 persons will be raped, and handguns will be the murder weapon of choice. While the crime rate has been going down, these sobering statistics from the FBI suggest that there is much work to be done.
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It seems every day we hear a new shooting and typically it is by somebody who shouldn't have had a gun in the first place. We must do better. I am pleased to report that in my State, Attorney General John Cornyn has decided to take action by implementing a gun violence reduction initiative statewide called Texas Exile.
Texas Exile is a zero tolerance program designed to get illegal guns off the streets and out of the hands of criminals. It will reduce gun violence statewide by targeting the route cause, the criminal. From now on in Texas, when an armed criminal is arrested, you will fast swift and certain prosecution, stiff mandatory sentences, and will be exiled from the community.
In the words of the Assistant U.S. Attorney who initiated Project Exile in Richmond, ''We are going to do a hell of a lot of gun cases in Federal court and scare the pants off the bad guys.''
Last fall, Governor Bush awarded a grant of $1.6 million to the Office of the Attorney General to implement Texas Exile. This grant funds special prosecutors whose sole job it is to crack down on criminals who illegally use and carry guns. These special prosecutors are working with all four U.S. Attorneys in our State, as well as the District Attorneys in all the major cities. They use Federal and State firearms statutes to seek maximum penalties for these criminals.
In Texas, we have the cooperation of the State, local and Federal enforcement as well as the private sector in what is really an unprecedented team effort to achieve a common goal. I would like to also emphasize the broad-based support that we have on both sides of the political aisle for this program.
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We enthusiastically support this promising bill which pledges to take the Exile Program nationwide. Our statewide initiative and cooperative agreement with all four U.S. Attorneys to prosecute these criminals under Federal law where appropriate makes Texas eligible for funding under this bill.
All too often in State court, weapons charges are routinely pled down to a misdemeanor violation and the defendant is out on probation. Under Exile, there is truth in sentencing and that means no probation, no parole, only real jail time.
Prosecution is prevention. Exile will prevent homicides before they occur by locking up those most likely to commit them. It is working. It is working in our State. Overall since we launched Texas Exile this year, 197 arrests have been effectuated, 115 indictments have been returned, 10 defendants have been convicted and over 630 illegal guns have been taken off the streets.
Under Texas Exile, armed and violent gang members who have been repeatedly in and out of the State system terrorizing neighborhoods have been locked out. Exile has also prevented drive-by shootings and drug dealers from adding victims to the casualty list in the war on drugs. Now with these armed career criminals behind bars, and exiled from the community, Texans can sleep better.
Perhaps the most chilling and compelling case which illustrates the need for this bill and for the Exile Program nationwide arose out of Ft. Worth. Meet Nicholas Alexander Martin. His mug shot is in the middle poster between the two Exile posters.
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Martin was stopped on a motorcycle for a routine traffic stop. He was dressed in black. The officer soon discovered the man was an armed career criminal in possession of a 12 gauge shotgun. During the search incident to his arrest, the police found a bandolier of shotgun shells strapped to his waist, a flashlight, black gloves, four feet of telephone court, a knife, surgical gloves and a ski mask. I submit that Nicholas Martin was not on his way to a boy scout picnic. In fact, he was prepared to break into an elderly woman's house in an area where two senior citizens had recently been murdered. Nicholas Martin was exiled to a Federal penitentiary where he is currently serving 17 years hard time.
Exile is a win-win proposition supported by all sides of the gun debate. We need to get out the word. The deterrent effect of the public awareness campaign is just as important as the prosecutions themselves. That is why in Texas we are promoting the public awareness campaign marketed directly to the criminal. Our slogan, ''Gun Time Means Hard Time,'' can be found on billboards and in radio and television ads. It sends a clear message to armed career criminals, carry a weapon illegally in Texas and you will do hard time in prison. The message is resonating.
Recently in Texas a suspect was arrested with a gun. When asked why he ran from the scene, he replied, ''I heard about that new program that would give me five extra years in jail.'' It does have an impact on criminal behavior.
In an effort to embrace the private sector in this crusade, General Cornyn nominated chairperson from each of the major cities in Texas to spearhead the public awareness effort. Lead by our statewide Chair, Judge Wayne Sessions, these chairperson are energizing local communities and raising private sector dollars to promote Texas Exile.
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After the tragedies in Littleton, Colorado, the Jewish Day Care Center in Los Angeles or in my State, in Ft. Worth at the Ft. Worth Wedgewood Baptist Church, we are reminded of the words of St. Francis who said, ''God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.''
I applaud my Attorney General and the members of this committee for your wisdom, courage and leadership in changing the things you can to better the lives of the people of this Nation.
We have brought an advertisement that we are running on television in Texas that is part of our public awareness campaign that we would like to show.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. If it is set, we would be glad to have it run.
[Showing of videotape.]
Mr. MCCAUL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Mr. McCaul follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF MICHAEL T. MCCAUL, SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, AUSTIN, TX
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am honored to represent Texas Attorney General John Cornyn before this Committee in support of this Bill which addresses an issue that is perhaps more important than any otherand that is Gun Violence.
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In 30 minutes today, 1 person will be murdered, 30 robberies will be committed, and 5 persons will be raped. And handguns will be the weapon of choice. While the crime rate has been going down, these sobering statistics from the FBI suggest that there is much work to be done. In Texas, we rank second in the nation in the total number of firearm homicides and 18th in the nation per capita.
We must do better.
It seems like every day we hear about a new shooting and typically it's by someone who shouldn't have had a gun in the first place. I am pleased to report that Texas Attorney General John Cornyn has decided to take action by implementing a gun violence reduction initiative statewide. We call it Texas Exile.
A crime-control initiative, Texas Exile is a zero-tolerance program designed to get illegal guns off the streets and out of the hands of criminals. It will reduce gun violence statewide by targeting the root cause of gun violencethat is criminals who illegally use and carry weapons. From now on in Texas, when an armed criminal is arrested, he will face swift and certain prosecution, stiff mandatory sentences, and will be ''Exiled'' from the community.
As we have heard today, Project Exile began in Richmond, Virginia. The concept is simple. In the words of the Assistant U.S. Attorney who initiated Project Exile, ''We are going to do a hell of a lot of gun cases in federal court and scare the pants off the bad guys.'' It worked.
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At the time, Richmond had the second-highest murder rate per capita in the country. Since then, the city's gun violence rate has dropped by an impressive 50 percent.
Recently, Governor Bush awarded a grant of $1.6 million to the Office of the Attorney General to implement Texas Exile.
The grant funds special prosecutors whose sole job is to crack down on criminals who illegally use and carry guns. These special prosecutors are working with all four U.S. Attorneys in our state, as well as district attorneys in all the major cities. They will use federal and state firearm statutes to seek the maximum penalty for these criminals.
In Texas, we have the cooperation of state, local and federal law enforcement, as well as the private sector in an unprecedented team effort to achieve a common goal. It is a monumental and costly task, but it is a worthwhile endeavor that will prevent violence and save lives.
We enthusiastically support this promising Bill. Our statewide initiative and cooperative agreement with all four U.S. Attorneys to prosecute these criminals under federal law where appropriate makes Texas eligible for funding under this Bill. We are also considering the option, as set forth in the Bill, of proposing new legislation to strengthen our state gun laws so that more Exile cases can be brought in state court.
Federal firearm statutes provide a powerful tool which can be used against the armed criminal. The mandatory sentencing guidelines provide truth in sentencing by abolishing parole. These laws prohibit armed career criminals, drug dealers, fugitives, and perpetrators of domestic violence from carrying and using firearms.
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Carrying a firearm in connection with drug dealing or while committing a federal violent crime imposes a mandatory minimum five-year jail term in addition to the underlying offense. And depending on the defendant's criminal history, he can face up to life imprisonment without parole.
All too often, in state court, weapons charges are routinely pled down to a misdemeanor violation and the defendant is out on probation. Under Exile, there will be no probation, no paroleonly real jail time.
Prosecution is prevention. Exile will prevent homicides before they occur by locking up those most likely to commit them. Texas Exile will also curtail the availability of guns to juveniles by locking up those most likely to supply themgangs and drug dealers. Breaking the link between guns, gangs, and drugs is the key to Texas Exile.
Exile will not stop every violent crime. But it will reduce gun violence.
And it is working. In Texas, we are already seeing results. Our special prosecutors are working hard across the state of Texas as we speak to bring these criminals to justice. So far, numerous indictments have been brought in all of the major cities. Overall, since we launched Texas Exile this year, 197 arrests have been effectuated, 115 indictments have been returned, 10 defendants have been convicted and over 630 illegal guns have been taken off the streets.
Under Texas Exile armed and violent gang members who have been repeatedly in and out of the state system terrorizing neighborhoods have been locked up. Exile has also prevented drive-by shootings, and drug dealers from adding victims to the casualty list in the war on drugs. In addition, convicted murderers on parole possessing firearms and fugitives have been brought to justice. Now, with these armed career criminals behind bars and exiled from the community, Texans can sleep better.
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Perhaps the most chilling case which illustrates the success of the Exile program arose out of Ft. Worth. Meet Nicholas Alexander Martin. Martin was stopped on his motorcycle for a routine traffic stop. He was dressed in a black long-sleeve shirt and black jeans tucked into motorcycle boots. The officers soon discovered that this man was an armed career criminal in possession of a pistol grip 12 gauge shotgun which was strapped to his bike. During the search incident to Martin's arrest, the police found a bandolier of shotgun shells strapped around his waist, a flashlight, black gloves in his right rear pocket, four feet of telephone cord, a knife, surgical gloves, and a ski mask. Nicholas Martin was not on his way to a boy scout picnic. In fact, he was preparing to break into an elderly woman's home in an area where two senior citizens had recently been murdered. Under Exile, Nicholas Martin was on his way to a federal penitentiary where he is currently serving 17 years hard time.
Exile is a win-win proposition supported by all sides of the gun debate. But we need to get the word out. The deterrent effect of the public awareness campaign is just as important, if not more, as the prosecutions themselves. That's why in Texas, we are promoting a public awareness campaign marketed to the criminals. Texas Exile's slogan: ''Gun Crime Means Hard Time'' can be found on billboards, public transportation, and in television and radio ads.
It sends a clear message to armed career criminals:
Carry a weapon illegally in Texas . . . and you'll do hard time in prison. The message is resonating. Recently, a suspect was arrested with a gun. When asked why he ran from the scene he replied, ''Well, I heard about that new program that would get me five extra years for a gun.''
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In an effort to embrace the private sector in this crusade, General Cornyn nominated Chairpersons in each of the major cities in Texas to spearhead the public awareness effort. Led by our statewide Chair, Judge William Sessions, these Chairpersons are energizing local communities and raising private sector dollars to promote Texas Exile.
After the tragedies in Littleton, Colorado, the Jewish Day Care Center in Los Angeles, or in my state at the Fort Worth Wedgewood Baptist Church, we are reminded of the words of St. Francis who said, ''God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.''
I applaud Attorney General John Cornyn and the members of this committee for your wisdom, courage, and leadership in changing the things you can . . . to better the lives of law abiding citizens.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Mr. Terwilliger?
STATEMENT OF GEORGE J. TERWILLIGER, III, ESQ., PARTNER, MCGUIRE WOODS, BATTLE & BOOTHE
Mr. TERWILLIGER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
As you noted in your kind introduction, I served as Deputy Attorney General and United States Attorney but perhaps more importantly or equally importantly at least to this discussion, I served for 8 years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, first here in the District of Columbia, then in Vermont.
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In the District of Columbia, I worked in a system that probably has the toughest or at least among the toughest gun control laws in the country. Here you cannot possess a firearm outside your home and every firearm must be registered.
In Vermont, I worked under a legal system that was the opposite extreme. In Vermont, there are no gun laws period, save for a couple of fish and game violations.
I also bring to the perspective of the firearms enforcement issue the fact that since I was about 10 years old, I have gone afield with firearms, I have given my children the opportunity to do that. I think it is a noble and good pursuit and not something we should lightly discourage.
I do have some definite thoughts from all of this experience about what works when it comes to curbing the criminal use of firearms. I think in any discussion of this subject, we would all do well to remember that the criminal use of firearms ought to be the Government's main interest in the entire subject.
In early 1991, I had the privilege of championing a Federal law enforcement initiative that you made reference to, Mr. Chairman, called Project Triggerlock. This was a national, affirmative effort to direct and target the use of Federal law enforcement and prosecutorial resources at violent criminals with guns. It was, in essence, a directive to the Nation's 93 U.S. Attorneys and all Federal law enforcement and it was also an unprecedented opportunity for cooperation with the State and local law enforcement agencies.
Page 163 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Triggerlock was founded on two fundamental facts which are very relevant to the discussion that is going on here today. First, repeat violent offenders commit a disproportionately large share of all violent crime. Second, any such offender with a gun is a self defined danger to public safety.
We recognized back in the early 1990's that the Federal Government should have a role, albeit a limited one, in stemming the unconscionable level of violent crime that was plaguing our country, particularly our inner cities. Our objective was to exercise that limited role in a way that it could do the most good.
As you know, Congress had given us a good law that included a mandatory, minimum, 15-year prison sentence for any person with three prior violent crime convictions who was found in possession of a firearm. What Triggerlock did was invite our State and local colleagues to refer for Federal prosecution those offenders they believed were the most dangerous, armed chronic offenders. As I explained in the Oval Office to President Bush, who gave this initiative his enthusiastic support, we aimed to maximize the bang for the taxpayers' buck by going after the ''baddest of the bad.''
In the first year of the program, some 7,000 armed convicted felons were prosecuted. These cases did not overwhelm the Federal judiciary with lengthy trials because they are simple, the only relevant question being does the accused have the prior conviction or convictions and did the accused possess a gun? The beneficial aspects of this program are so obvious, they almost shouldn't need to be mentioned.
How many crimes would a group of 7,000 armed, chronic offenders commit if left on the street for another month or year or for a lifetime career in crime? How many more citizens would have been victimized by these criminals? Should we forego the opportunity the law presents to incapacitate armed career criminals and leave them on the street to commit more heinous and perhaps capital offenses or should we recognize that however many chances one thinks is enough, we can agree that a chronic offender who elects to be armed has exhausted his allotment.
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I submit that the concept of all of this is irresistible but somehow it appears that the current administration found it not so. As I am sure you know, the Senate, led by Senator Sessions, held hearings and issued a report on this issue of Federal firearms enforcement and prosecution and it does show a substantial decline in enforcement after 1992.
We have heard today about one very notable exception to that inactivity and that is Project Exile. I think that Attorney General Earley deserves some very special commendation for the support that he has lent to it. One of the things no one has said isand Mark would never say this himself, I am surehis office is not overburdened with resources, particularly lawyers. For him to give up one of his lawyers, cross designate him and send him over to the U.S. Attorneys Office I think is remarkable.
The Exile Program underscores how much of a lost opportunity there was by the current administration not pursuing Triggerlock as a continued national initiative. As you know, Mr. Chairman, momentum in law enforcement cooperation between the levels of government and creating an ongoing national resolve to combat violent crime is something that is difficult to maintain.
I certainly will admit this program is not a panacea for all crime or even a complete solution to the issue of gun crime, but it clearly addresses in a very effective way, the root cause of so much of the violence that involves firearms and that is the criminal behind the gun.
It is a simple truth but an inescapable one, our choices are limited. Either we incapacitate these armed chronic offenders or we leave them on the street to commit more crime.
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I am proud of the policy choices that we made in the Bush administration to choose to pursue a program like this. I certainly urge the reexamination of that experience for the benefits and insights that apply today. The underlying problem has really not changed significantly over the intervening years, nor has the common sense of this kind of approach changed as an important part of a solution.
As I know you know so well, addressing public safety is a core function of governmentour streets, workplaces and schools are bound to be more safe if we resolutely go about identifying and incapacitating armed career offenders. That is why I welcome the opportunity to be here today and support this bill.
I also think that you deserve a special commendation. You were there when Triggerlock began, you have indeed been a tireless supporter of public safety over the years and I think this bill represents in a way a culmination of those efforts because some of the things that came through this committee in the pastbail reform, sentencing reform, some of the top firearms lawsall provided a model that the States can use to follow that up with some money that the Federal Government can use to prime the pump for these kinds of efforts, I think is an outstanding effort and I fully support it.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Terwilliger follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF GEORGE J. TERWILLIGER, III, ESQ., PARTNER, MCGUIRE WOODS, BATTLE & BOOTHE
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Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee:
I thank you for the privilege of being here today and hope that I may assist your most important and significant efforts to insure that all that can be done to address the use of firearms in criminal activity is being done. I fear that it is not.
Eight years ago, I concluded nearly 15 years in public service at the Department of Justice.(see footnote 4) During those years I regularly handled cases involving the use of firearms by violent criminals. Some of the more shocking incidents, of course, stand out. I clearly recall in March 1981 being on the telephone with a police official here in Washington when he told me that there had just been a shooting involving the President as he exited the Hilton Hotel. That evening, I worked on a search warrant affidavit for John Hinckley's hotel room. That, of course, was an exceptional case in many respects. But here in Washington, gun violation cases were a routine part of every prosecutor's docket because the District has long outlawed the possession of a handgun outside the home and required the registration of all firearms. I saw first-hand the futility of that approach, as unarmed citizens became defenseless prey for chronic offenders who were often out of the courthouse through a revolving door before the ink on their arrest reports was dry. I saw many cases involving the use of firearms in crimes of violence, including far too many where the victim was dead.
My experience in Vermontg gave me another perspective on the same problem. Vermont was, and still is as far as I know, the extreme opposite of the District of Columbia in so far as gun control is concernedthere isn't any. Save for a few fish and game regulations, the state was not in the business of regulating the possession of firearms by anyone, including convicted felons. As a result, wethe federal prosecutorswere the only alternative when local, state or federal officials found a prior convicted felon in possession of a firearm. These cases often involved circumstances that presented a significant danger to public safety. I experienced some considerable criticism from some quarters when, during my tenure as U.S. Attorney, I stepped up prosecutions in Vermont for felons in possession of firearms.
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You should also know that I have gone afield with firearms since I was ten years old. I have spent many wonderful hours with family members and good friends in pursuit of shooting sports. I have given my children the opportunity to do the same and believe the use of sporting arms to be something valuable and noble, not to be lightly restricted or discouraged.
As a result of all of this, I have some definite thoughts about what works when it comes to curbing the criminal use of firearmsand what does not. And, curbing the criminal use of firearms is, or at least ought to be, the main interest the government has in the subject.
These views led me in early 1991 to champion a federal law enforcement initiative that later became known as ''Triggerlock''. This was an affirmative national effort to direct and target the use of federal resources at violent criminals with gunstake guns out of the hands of violent criminals. through a comprehensive national program. It was, in essence, a directive to the nation's 93 United States Attorneys and all federal law enforcement, and it was an unprecedented opportunity for cooperation with state and local law enforcement agencies. Triggerlock was based on two fundamental facts:
(a) Repeat, violent offenders commit a disproportionately large share of all violent offenses;
(b) Any such offender with a gun is a self-defined danger to public safety.
We recognized that the federal government should have a role, albeit limited, in stemming the unconscionable level of violent crime plaguing our countryparticularly our inner cities. Our objective was to exercise our limited role where it could do the most good. The Congress had given us a good law that included a mandatory minimum 15-year prison sentence for any person with three prior violent crime convictions who was found in possession of a firearm. We decided to invite our state and local colleagues to refer for federal prosecution those that they believed were the most dangerous armed chronic offenders. As I explained in the Oval Office to President Bush, who gave us his enthusiastic support, we aimed to maximize the bang for the taxpayer's buck by going after ''the baddest of the bad''.
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In the first year of the program, some 7,000 armed convicted felons were prosecuted and convicted. These cases did not overburden the need not tax the federal judiciary with lengthy trials. They are were simple cases,: the only relevant question being ''Does the accused have the prior conviction and did the accused possess a gun?''
The beneficial effects of this type of program are considerable. How many crimes would a group of 7,000 armed chronic offenders commit if left on the street for another month, another year, or for a lifetime career in crime? How many more citizens would have been victimized by these criminals?
Should we forgo the opportunity the law presents to incapacitate chronic armed offenders, giving them the opportunity to commit more heinous, perhaps capital, offenses? Or should we recognize that however many chances one thinks is enough, we can agree that a chronic offender who elects to be armed has exhausted his allotment?
I submit that the concept is irresistible. But somehow, it appears that the current Administration found it not so. As many of you know, the other body led by Senator Sessions has held hearings and issued a report on this issue of federal firearms enforcement and prosecution. It shows a substantial decline in enforcement after 1992. Exceptions to this inactivity exist in a few locales. Helen Fahey, in my state of Virginia, with apparently little initial support from the Department undertook a very similarand we now knoweffective program styled ''Project Exile.'' Her office, the Eastern District of Virginia, had consistently been among the most active in prosecuting gun crimes in the Reagan-Bush Administrations. Her effort also received strong support from state authorities, including Governor Gilmore and Attorney General Earley. In fact Attorney General Earley has sent one of his own lawyers to work on gun cases in the U.S. Attorney's office. The Virginia Exile program underscores the great opportunity lost by not maintaining the Triggerlock initiative on a national basis. Momentum in law enforcement cooperation and an ongoing national resolve to combat violent criminals are not easily recreated.
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To be sure, this type of program is not a panacea for all crime or even a complete solution to the issue of gun crime. But it clearly addresses in a very effective way the root cause of so much violence involving firearms: the criminal behind the gun. It is a simple truth, but an inescapable one: our choices are limited; either we incapacitate these armed chronic offenders or we leave them on the street to commit more crime.
Somewhat ironically, in the current public gun control debate, the term ''triggerlock'' has re-emerged but as an entirely new initiative. This one does nothing to address what violent criminals do with guns. We also are subjected currently to the ludicrous notion that the trial lawyers can solve our gun crime problems for us by bringing cases that result in liability of gunmakers for what criminals do with their products. By that logic, an automobile manufacturer would be liable for a reckless driver. Increased gun safety obviously makes sense, just as we understand that seatbelts can save lives. But the American people are not stupid. They will rightly question whether the White House and the Justice Department would rather bully gun manufacturers and dealers than use the power of existing federal law to stop armed chronic repeat offenders who jeopardize the safety of law enforcement officers and innocent citizens.
I am proud of the policy choices we made on these issues in the Bush Administration. I urge you to reexamine that experience for benefits and insights that apply today. The underlying problem has not changed significantly, nor has the common sense of this program as an important aspect of the solution. As you know so well, addressing public safety is a core function of government. Our streets, workplaces, and schools are bound to be more safe if we resolutely go about identifying and incapacitating armed career offenders.
Page 170 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you, Terwilliger.
Mr. TERWILLIGER. Mr. Chairman, I have an engagement that I absolutely must get to. If it is quite all right with you and Mr. Scott, I would very much like to be excused.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. It is all right with me if it is with Mr. Scott. We already had one witness who didn't ask that permission and she left, so I don't know how we can deny you that right.
Thank you for being here today. I am sorry this has run so late for the entire panel, that was not our intent.
Mr. TERWILLIGER. It is an important subject and well worth the time.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Mr. Sukhia?
STATEMENT OF KENNETH W. SUKHIA, ESQ., FOWLER, WHITE, GILLEN, BOGGS, VILLAREAL AND BANKER, P.A.
Mr. SUKHIA. Thank you for having me. I am honored to be asked to speak about our experience in the Northern District of Florida with Project Triggerlock.
I was an Assistant U.S. Attorney for roughly 10 years through the 1980's and was the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District under President Bush from 1990 to 1993. During that time, we had a State system which unfortunately was not the strongest in its response to the problem of violent crime. It was very well felt among the U.S. Attorney offices in our districts inasmuch as we were taking a number of cases into our Federal system which were brought to us by the State authorities, which really demanded the attention of a meaningful system which provided severe penalties for hardened and violent offenders.
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In April 1991, Attorney General Thornburgh announced Project Triggerlock and asked each of the 93 U.S. Attorneys to gather State and local authorities in their districts and talk with them about the implementation of that program and to invite them to join in a cooperative effort to deal with the most violent criminal offenders in their districts.
In that same month, our district organized a Triggerlock Task Force meeting. We assembled over 100 local and State law enforcement officers from the Northern District of Florida and we presented the basic concept behind Operation Triggerlock, that primarily being to use a cooperative State, Federal and local effort to address these violent offenders and to do it by using very simple and straightforward charges, something that could be easily accomplished and could provide the most meaningful sentences for those who needed them most.
At that very meeting I was approached by officers who had been working with the Gainesville Homicide Task Force. That was a task force which the Department of Justice, through requests from our office, funded to the tune of about $1.2 million. We had over 100 law enforcement officials down there working on the case of the brutal slayings of five University of Florida students in August 1990.
The officers came before us and reminded me that we had a suspect in that case but they were concerned that it may take many years before that suspect was charged in the State system and brought to justice in the State system and then they weren't certain how long a sentence that person may receive. They said this would be an ideal candidateI felt so toofor the Triggerlock Program.
Page 172 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Within 2 months, Danny H. Rolling was charged in the Northern District of Florida. He was charged with numerous offenses, including armed bank robbery as well as Triggerlock offenses of using a firearm during the commission of a felony and also being a three-time violent felon in possession of a firearm.
Within two more months, he was prosecuted. The cooperative effort involved the cross-designation of the State Attorney at that time, Len Register from Gainesville who working with my criminal chief, brought the case to trial. After a week-long trial, Rolling was convicted. Within another month and a half, he was sentenced to life in Federal prison.
It was another 2 years before the State system could complete their process of getting Mr. Rolling convicted in that system. That was one example. I have identified ten such examples in my statement. I would like to share two more with you.
Another was named Patrick Howell, the head of a Jamaican posse that was operating out of Ft. Lauderdale. He sent a microwave oven to his girlfriend who had borne his child. The oven was rigged with a bomb because she had been talking as though she might at some point go to the authorities because she was getting antsy about the operation.
A State trooper stopped a suspect on the interstate in our district and after making an arrest (because he didn't get straight answers from the rental car company as to his being authorized to use the vehicle), he opened the trunk. He was inventorying the vehicle and found the microwave oven. He opened the microwave oven and was killed. The bomb detonated and pieces of bomb were scattered about 400 and 500 yards away.
Page 173 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Nineteen persons were indicted in the Federal system. Again, the entire process of indictment, trial (which was about a 3-week long trial) and sentencing I believe took approximately 6 months. All 19 were convicted of all charges and the charges included possession of explosive devices during the commission of a felony which were Triggerlock offenses as well as gun offenses. They all received life in prison and are still in prison for their involvement in that operation.
The third case was most notable in our district. It involved a man who had kidnapped an 11-year-old girl. It was every parent's nightmare. She was on her way home from school on her bike. He abducted herin the Pensacola areaand kept her bound and gagged for some 3 days. Because of the enormous public outcry including the Adam Walsh Program, we had thousands of citizens combing the area in an effort to locate this little girl. He actually released the girl. Because of nationwide effort and manhunt, he was apprehended about 2 weeks later.
Within a month, he was indicted on Federal kidnapping charges and Triggerlock charges. Within another month, he pled guilty and within another month or so, he was sentenced to life in prison plus 60 years on the Triggerlock charges.
There are other cases identified in my district. They are just a small example of the influence this program had in our districts in joining together State and local law enforcement in a cooperative effort to bring the most violent and dangerous offenders into a system which provided meaningful punishment.
I am honored to be here and I thank you very much for inviting me to comment on our experience in our district.
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[The prepared statement of Mr. Sukhia follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF KENNETH W. SUKHIA, ESQ., FOWLER, WHITE, GILLEN, BOGGS, VILLAREAL AND BANKER, P.A.
Over the last 30 years, our nation has experienced dramatic increases in the rate of violent crime. The violent crime epidemic reached its peak in the 70s and 80s with sharp increases in murders, armed robberies, burglaries and other violent offenses, many of which were linked to the distribution and use of illegal drugs.
In one of the most successful programs to address the problem of violent crime, Attorney General Dick Thornburgh launched an initiative known as Project Triggerlock in April 1991. The Attorney General directed that ''[A]ll 93 U. S. Attorneys in every section of the nation are to make certain that all crimes committed with firearms are moved to the highest level of the prosecution agenda. Triggerlock will target the worst crimes, the crimes the public fears mostviolent crimes committed at gunpoint. The goal is to protect the public by putting the most dangerous offenders in prison for as long as the law allows.''
From 1990 to 1993 I was fortunate to serve as the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida. During this time, the Northern District of Florida was the toughest sentencing federal district in the nation, with average sentences more than double the national average. While the federal system was characterized by lengthy prison terms for violent offenders, most of the state criminal justice systems at the time had not followed suit. In 1992, more than two-thirds of the 140,000 persons convicted of felonies in Florida never made it to prison at all. According to a 1992 Newsweek article on Florida's failed system, the average Florida felon sentenced to 4 years in prison served only 3.7 months. The situation was so serious that two of Florida's state attorneys actually sued the Parole Commission to stop early releases, noting that ''law-abiding citizens are fed up with Florida's revolving door of criminal justice.'' According to my State Attorney colleagues in the Northern District in the State system at that time, one had to be guilty of at least seven residential burglaries in order to be eligible for prison. Similarly, a person had to steal 17 cars before he had a chance of being incarcerated under Florida's system.
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Unfortunately, the situation in Florida in the late 80s and early 90s was symptomatic of state criminal justice systems around our nation at that time. Project Triggerlock was not designed to compete with or supplant the traditional local response to violent crime. Rather, it was intended to assist state and local authorities by providing complimentary federal prosecutions of selected violent offenders. Its purpose was to aid state criminal justice authorities by identifying those violent offenders who were doing the most damage on the streets and who could most benefit from federal attention. Project Triggerlock represented a cooperative local, state, and federal effort to make our communities safer places in which to live.
Project Triggerlock succeeded because of its two primary features. First, it was a cooperative effort among multiple agencies across state and federal jurisdictions. Second, it targeted the most dangerous criminals, utilizing simple and straightforward charges.
Triggerlock was implemented by establishing state and local task forces in every federal district. In the spring of 1991, the Attorney General directed every United States Attorney's office to gather key state and local law enforcement officials throughout each district to invite their participation in Project Triggerlock. At these task force meetings, the U. S. Attorney explained the concept behind Triggerlock, and encouraged state and local officials to join together in implementing an effective strategy to bring the federal firearm provisions to bear on these violent offenders. It was clear at the outset that Triggerlock was not an effort to impose federal law enforcement mandates on state or local authorities, but a method by which state and local officials could take advantage of the strong federal mandatory firearm statutes in dealing with their most violent offenders. It provided an ideal opportunity for state investigators and prosecutors to address these most violent criminals in a criminal justice system in which pre-trial detention was available for dangerous criminals, mandatory sentences were provided for many offenses, and prisoners actually served over 90% of their federal sentences. What's more, the Attorney General had ordered that there by no plea bargaining in Triggerlock cases, which assured that violent criminals using guns would face severe penalties for their crimes.
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The state and local law enforcement response to the Triggerlock initiative was remarkable. In the first three years of the program, over 300 cases were prosecuted in the Southern District of Florida, about half under §924(c) and half under §924(e). In the §924(c) cases, the statute set penalties based on the use of a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence or serious drug trafficking offense. Most of the defendants convicted under this provision received sentences of 10 years or more. In the §924(e) cases, the statute provided enhanced penalties for felons in possession of a firearm who had at least three prior convictions for a violent felony or serious drug offense. In §924(e) cases, the penalties ranged from a minimum mandatory 15 years up to 58 years. In the first year of the Triggerlock program in Tampa, the Middle District of Florida prosecuted 79 cases with sentences ranging from 15 to 55 years.
The response to the Triggerlock initiative by state and local law enforcement authorities in the Northern District of Florida was significant and immediate. In our district, we fought to utilize Triggerlock in the manner contemplated by the Attorney General when he announced that the initiative would target the worst crimes committed by the most dangerous offenders resulting in the most severe penalties. Among the Operation Triggerlock cases prosecuted in the Northern District of Florida are the following:
1. Danny H. Rolling9101023922(g), 924(c), 924(a)(2), 924(e)(1)
Trial: 3/16/923/23/92 (Convicted on all counts)
Sentenced: 5/21/92Life + five years
Page 177 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In March 1992 the Northern District of Florida tried and convicted Danny Harold Rolling on federal bank robbery and firearms charges. Rolling at the time was the chief suspect in the brutal slayings of five University of Florida students which shocked the nation in the Fall of 1990. After our indictment and conviction, he was later convicted by the State in those slayings.
The prosecution was a classic example of the tremendous value of the Triggerlock program and a model of federal, state and local cooperation to achieve the best law enforcement result. The investigation of the murders by hundreds of federal, state and local agents in the Gainesville Homicide Task Force was aided by emergency law enforcement grants from the DOJ Office of Justice Programs in the amount of $1.2 million.
At our Triggerlock Conference, which was held in April 1991, a representative from the Gainesville Sheriff's Office advised us that their chief suspect in the Gainesville slayings was a solid Triggerlock candidate and that he was also a suspect in the armed robbery of the First Union National Bank in Gainesville, Florida on August 27, 1990. The State asked if we could assist them by prosecuting Rolling on the Bank Robbery and Armed Career Criminal charges to secure some serious federal time (possibly life in prison) for Rolling. In less than three months., Rolling was Indicted on federal charges for the possession of a firearm during the commission of the Gainesville bank robbery and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The federal prosecution centered on the armed robbery of the Gainesville bank the same day two of the bodies of the murder victims were found several blocks from the bank. After a week-long trial, Rolling was found guilty of all charges. The cooperative effort in the case was exemplified by the cross-designation of the Gainesville State Attorney, Len Register, as a Special AUSA who tried the case with our office's Criminal Chief, Gregory R. Miller.
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On May 21, 1992, Rolling was sentenced to life plus five years in federal prison. The life sentence in federal prison Danny Rolling received meant just thatlife in prison with no gain time and no possibility of parole. Rolling's prior criminal record included convictions for eight robberies with firearms, attempted armed robbery, aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer, two burglaries, grand theft, grand theft auto and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Rolling also had a pending arrest warrant for the attempted murder of his father in Shreveport, Louisiana. Rolling is alleged to have shot his father once in the head during an argument.
2. Patrick Howell920401318 USC §844(i), 922(j), 924(c), 1956, 1962(c) and 1962(d); 21 USC §841 and 846
Trial Date: 10/26/92
Sentence: All defendants convicted on all counts.
Patrick Howell and 13 other defendants were charged in a 15 count racketeering Indictment for their roles in a Jamaican-led drug trafficking organization responsible for the February 1, 1992 bombing death of Florida Highway Patrol Trooper James Fulford. Among the criminal activities committed by the group and alleged in the Indictment were racketeering, murder (a total of three), robbery, witness tampering, death by explosive device, possession and use of firearms and an explosive device during drug trafficking offenses, possession of stolen firearms, money laundering, and numerous drug trafficking offenses. The defendants faced possible life sentences under the racketeering and drug conspiracy counts, and a mandatory life sentence if convicted of the death by explosive device count. They also faced a mandatory minimum 30 years (consecutive) on the possession of an explosive device during a drug trafficking offense charge. Each of the 13 defendants were sentenced to life in federal prison.
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3. Clifford Lewin9105013844(i), 924(c), 922(g), 922(a)(6)
Superseding Indictment: 10/9/91
Sentence: 50 years in prison
Clifford Lewin was Indicted in a seven-count Indictment on October 9, 1991, and convicted on all counts after a two week trial concluding on January 13, 1992. Lewin was found guilty of planting a pipe bomb outside the Washington County, Florida, Sheriff's Office and seriously injuring a Sheriff's Deputy.
Lewin is an expert on the subject of explosives and at one time attempted to begin a mail order business selling homemade bombs. After obtaining a search warrant, officers discovered a supply of metal boxes in a warehouse used by Lewin. The boxes contained explosives. Officers also located a storage shed at Panama City Beach registered in Lewin's name. Inside the shed, police found a supply of fuses, loaded guns, chemicals and another bomb. At the time of Lewins' arrest, police found several diagrams and instructions on the manufacturing of bombs and explosive devices. A manuscript was also found. A passage from this manuscript stated, ''Nobody likes these rich suck-ups that can afford to attend those games . . .'' (referring to domed sports stadiums) ''You're lucky to kill 25 percent of them before they realize they are being gassed and run out of the stadium.''
In imposing sentence, the Judge described Lewin as a ''human time bomb'' who showed no remorse during the trial and at sentencing. Lewin was tried in 1981 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on charges that he murdered his stepfather. In the Louisiana state murder case, Lewin had been acquitted by a judge in a non-jury trial. An investigator testified at Lewin's federal sentencing that he escaped conviction on the state murder charge because his stepfather's body was never found. Lewin was sentenced to 50 years in federal prison on the bombing case in the Northern District of Florida.
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3. Michael Prikakis9103099924(c)(1)
Sentence: 46.5 years
Michael Prikakis was charged in a six-count Indictment. The Indictment charged Prikakis with three counts of Possession with Intent to Distribute less than 500 grams of cocaine, in violation of 21 USC 841(a)(1), and three counts of possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking offense, in violation of 18 USC 924(c)91). Prikakis is a Greek national who was admitted to the United States after he married an Air Force Staff Sergeant stationed at Eglin Air Force Base.
On September 19, 1991, Walton County Deputy W. Henderson was introduced to Michael Prikakis by a confidential informant. Henderson paid Prikakis $200 for 3.5 grams of cocaine and discussed plans for a future purchase of one ounce of cocaine for $1,500. Prikakis, during the transaction, pulled a blue steel handgun from the armrest of his car, pointed it at the deputy and informant, and advised them that ''If you f--- with me I'll kill you. I've killed many people for much less.''
A second sale took place on September 23, 1991, when Deputy Henderson introduced two undercover officers to Prikakis. The officers passed Prikakis $1,500 as he sat in his car and he handed them one ounce of cocaine. From their vantage point outside of the driver's door they could see a .9 millimeter, semi-automatic pistol on an armrest, and also saw a machine gun type pistol on the back seat of the vehicle.
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Prikakis was arrested on September 26, 1991, while waiting to make another sale of cocaine. He was found with two ounces of cocaine and a .9 millimeter, semi-automatic pistol with two 14 round magazines and 52 rounds of ammunition.
At trial, Prikakis pleaded guilty to the drug counts and allowed the three firearm counts to go to the jury. The jury returned a verdict of guilty on all remaining counts.
Prikakis was sentenced to 18 months incarceration for the cocaine charges, 60 months consecutive on the September 19 gun count, 240 months consecutive on the September 23 gun count, and 240 months consecutive on the September 26 gun count, for a total of 46.5 years.
4. Terrance Williams9104020922(g)
Sentence: Life in Prison
Williams was indicted for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute crack cocaine, possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm (18 USC §922(g)). On May 3, 1991, police officers found Williams in a motel room in Tallahassee in possession of a 12 gauge pistol-grip shotgun. Police officers determined that Williams had been convicted of armed robberies in 1982 and 1983. During the booking process, Williams threatened Investigator Ernie Stoll, Tallahassee Police Department, and his police dog.
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After a three-day jury trial in January 1992, Williams was convicted as charged.
During and after the trial, Williams made repeated threats and attempted to disrupt court proceedings. Williams stated to a Deputy Marshal that he was going to blow up the police station and the courthouse. He also stated that he was going to kill every ''cracker he sees'' once he gets out of prison.
On April 4, 1992, Williams was sentenced to life in federal prison.
5. Stephen Crosby9101031924(c) & 922(g)
Sentence: 228 mo.
On April 30, 1991, Crosby was arrested for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. Police officers searched Crosby's residence and found drugs and a MAC 11 semi-automatic assault pistol in his bedroom
On October 28, 1991, Crosby pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, use of a firearm during a drug transaction (18 USC §924(c)) and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (18 USC §922(g)). Crosby had an extensive prior record which included convictions for burglary, possession of cocaine, resisting arrest with violence, and two escapes.
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On January 17, 1992, Crosby was sentenced to 19 years in federal prison.
6. Brian Tramner9105029924(c)
Sentence: 184 mo.
In July 1991, Brian Tramner, Steve Tramner, Scott Trammel and Lori Parker devised a scheme to import approximately 4,0005,000 pounds of marijuana into the United States. The subjects located a boat to use in the importation scheme. Unfortunately for them, the owner of the vessel was a DEA informant.
The subjects gave approximately $20,000 to the CI and told him to purchase navigation equipment and radios. On August 1, 1992, the defendants left Panama City on the CI's vessel, and arrived at Port Antonio, Jamaica on August 13, 1991. During the voyage, Lori Parker kept a semi-automatic handgun in her purse. While the ship was anchored off Jamaica, a large quantity of marijuana was loaded onto the vessel. During the return trip to Panama City, Brian Tramner frequently displayed the above-noted semi-automatic handgun.
On August 19, 1991, the ship docked in Panama City. Undercover agents posed as the off-load crew. After the marijuana was loaded onto a truck, undercover agents stated that they wanted to be paid before they let the marijuana go. The demand angered Brian Tramner and as the agents began to get into the truck to drive away, Tramner pointed the gun at the driver and threatened to kill him if he did not get out of the truck. The agents drew their weapons and arrested Tramner and his companions.
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Tramner pleaded guilty to charges of importation, conspiracy to import and possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking offense. He was sentenced to 15.5 years in federal prison.
7. Darryl Harris9103066922(g)(1) & 924(e)
Sentence: 120 mo.; 62 mo.
On November 26, 1991, Darryl Lee Harris was found guilty after a jury trial of possessing a firearm while being a convicted felon in violation of 26 USC 5845. He was also found guilty of possessing an unregistered short-barreled shotgun in violation of 26 USC 5841, 5862(d), 5871, and 5872.
Harris was caught speeding by a local deputy who recognized him as a person suspected of drug trafficking in Santa Rosa County. The deputy called for back-up and asked the responding officer to bring his drug dog. Once the back-up officer arrived, Harris and his four companions were asked to step back to a patrol car. Harris gave officers permission to search the car. The officers discovered two long shotguns and two short-barreled guns in the spare tire compartment.
Testimony at trial revealed that Harris had been involved in a car chase and a gun battle earlier in the week and that a drug dealing organization was upset because he had taken twelve pounds of marijuana without paying for it.
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Harris was previously convicted of aggravated battery, aggravated battery with serious bodily harm, battery, trafficking in cocaine, and possession of cocaine. On January 29, 1992, Harris was sentenced to 21 years in federal prison.
8. Henry Vickers9104035924(e)(1)
Sentence: 15 years
On November 12, 1991, Vickers pleaded guilty to possession of firearms by a convicted felon in violation of 18 USC Sections 922(g), 924(a)(2) and 924(e)(1).
On March 29, 1991, a search warrant was obtained for Vickers' residence and vehicles. Police seized a loaded .38 caliber revolver, an unloaded .22 caliber semi-automatic rifle, an unloaded single-shot shotgun, a loaded .44 magnum lever-action rifle, pistol cartridges and a magazine for the .22 caliber rifle.
Vickers' prior record consisted of convictions on eleven separate felonies, most of which were burglaries of dwellings with a firearm. On January 13, 1992, Vickers was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.
9. Baulio Castillo9103054924(c)
Page 186 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Convicted: 8/14/91
Sentence: 157 mo.
Castillo was convicted following a trial by jury of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possession of a firearm during the commission of a drug trafficking offense.
Castillo is a 33-year-old Cuban male who came to America as part of the Mariel Boat Lift. He resided in the Miami area and reportedly was not conversant in the English language. Castillo's documented criminal past indicated that he acted as an enforcer/protector for various drug dealers. Castillo had been arrested and convicted repeatedly by the State but had never served any meaningful time in prison. His criminal history is set forth below:
9/2/86arrested for carrying a concealed weaponreceived probation.
10/27/86arrested for carrying a concealed firearm$500 fine.
12/4/89arrested for possession of cocaine, carrying a concealed firearm (2 cts), and use of a firearm during the commission of a felony; convicted of carrying a concealed weapon$750 fine.
5/15/90arrested for possession of cocaine (2 cts). According to police reports, the police observed the defendant participate in a transfer of a kilogram of cocaine. The charges were reduced, and he pleaded no contest to simple possession of cocaine. He was sentenced to time served and fined $225.00.
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The charges in the Northern District of Florida resulted from defendant's arrest by members of the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office and the Fort Walton Police Department. The defendant and three of his cohorts were arrested following a delivery of an ounce of cocaine to a residence in the Destin, Florida area. At the time of the delivery, a co-defendant had a .38 caliber Derringer in his possession. Castillo was held vicariously liable for his co-defendant's possession of the firearm and was convicted of using a firearm during a drug trafficking offense. In his first brush with the federal system, he was sentenced to 13 years in federal prison.
10. Granville Pinion920305518 USC §924(c), 922(g), 1201
Kidnaping occurred: 5/28/92
Sentenced: October 92
Sentence: Life in prison + 60 years
Granville Pinion pleaded guilty to the armed kidnaping of a 12-year-old girl. He also pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The child was kidnaped at gun point while riding her bicycle home from a neighborhood store and held captive for three days. Pinion kept her bound and gagged and threatened to harm her family if she attempted to escape. The abduction generated an intensive manhunt for the child, including the airing of the circumstances of her disappearance on America's Most Wanted. The Adam Walsh Foundation was instrumental in gaining national media assistance. The intensity of the public reaction caused Pinion to release the child. Based on her description and detailed identification of Pinion's vehicle, Pinion was apprehended in Mobile, Alabama. Almost one thousand citizens joined in the search for the child at the neighboring national seashore and adjacent communities.
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Pinion was sentenced to life in federal prison on the kidnaping charge plus 60 years consecutive for using a firearm during the commission of a felony.
Based on our experience in the Northern District of Florida, I can say with confidence that the mandatory minimum firearm offenses provided a powerful tool by which to prosecute, convict and incarcerate the most violent and dangerous criminal offenders. Without question, the use of these statutes resulted in the incarceration of dangerous and violent felons who otherwise would well have continued to carry out their violent crimes among the law abiding public. For this reason, I strongly support the Project Exile bill and believe it will serve as an effective means of protecting citizens from violent offenders who use firearms in the commission of their crimes.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you. We appreciate you coming today as you have on other occasions for the committee.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Reverend Fails, you are recognized.
STATEMENT OF REV. WILLIAM FAILS, HIGHPOINT, NC
Mr. FAILS. Thank you, we are glad to be here.
Page 189 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would like to thank the distinguished gentleman from North Carolina for recognizing us and also thank those who invited us to testify today. The only problem I have is there is a little box here that says 5 minutes.
That is not a good thing to put in front of an African American Baptist preacher, especially after you invite him to come and have comments.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. I must say to you I don't believe some of the other members have quite honored the 5 minutes but I would ask you to do something between five and ten if you could. I think that is about where the others have been.
Mr. FAILS. I will do my best.
I am here to testify on the High Point violent crime, the reduction strategy that was developed through the U.S. Attorneys Office in the Middle District of North Carolina, where in the City of High Point we had some serious concerns about the escalation of handgun violence in particular communities. It was not something that was widespread but it was very strong in different communities.
We were all invited to a table to discuss ways to reduce the handgun violence in the City of High Point. I think one of the focal points of the invitation was that everybody that would be concerned or affected by handgun violence was invited to the tablethe private sector, the faith community, as well as Federal law enforcement and our local law enforcement. Chief Lewis Kiosk is the Chief of Police in High Point. He brought the High Point Police Department to bear in the implementation of this program. We take off our hats to Chief Kiosk for the work that he did.
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The faith community took a special interest in this in that we were the persons that ended up seeing these young people either dead or behind bars. We determined coming out of denial that we definitely had a problem in our city. We didn't realize that many people in our town did not think we had a problem until we had this particular meeting to say there was a problem that was affecting everybody in the city.
We were able to do what we call notifications which was to bring the worse of the worse and say to them, if you do not stop committing the crimes, we are going to see to it that you go to jail. After the first call which lasted about 3 hours, the debriefing lasted 4.5 hours which was an opportunity for the community to say to law enforcement these are the mistakes you have made in notifying this community of this type of violence.
We were very pleased that our objections to many of the things they did and said were received well that we might construct a more productive kind of call-in situation. I heard the Governor say he thinks one thing that is extremely important is being fair. That was one of our main objectives, fairness and honesty, to tell these folk the City of High Point would no longer tolerate this kind of behavior, not just police, not just the private sector but the entire city came out of denial and said we have had enough.
We developed a six point strategy which was to identify the particular crime problem and those offenders causing the problems, to aggressively investigate and prosecute the most chronic offenders in the Federal court or the State courts, to notify the remaining offenders in the communities of future intolerance of the violent acts and to give them an opportunity to leave that kind of lifestyle.
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The community has said to them along with law enforcement in High Point that we are together. If you commit a handgun crime in the City of High Point, not just police, not just the fed but also the community is going to bring to bear on you the most pressure that we can bring.
At the same time, we said what can we do to keep you from going down this road. Within this initiative, there were resources we were able to use to say to offenders and ex-offenders, if you change your ways, then we will change our ways. If you will change, then we will change with you.
We had a concern about folks being exiled and sent away and then coming back to the community with worse habits than they had before they left because many prisons are training centers for this kind of behavior.
It is our position if we had money to do the prevention on the front side, then we wouldn't have to worry about it on the back side. We are not really interested in rehabilitation, we are interested in transition. We want to see folks change, not made the way they were so they can do the same thing. We would like to see folks change mentally, emotionally and physically so they don't depend on those things that landed them in that situation in the first place.
We do not disagree with Project Exile. I think we all have the same goal which is the eradication of handgun violence. I do think it is time and I heard it said today that this is a nonpartisan issue and it is, that this is a nonracial issue, and it is. Death is death. When you shoot somebody, if you hit them right, they are going to die. It makes no difference what color they are.
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Our problem is in sentencing. More African American males tend to suffer behind the sentencing that is set up in this country than any other ethnic and/or majority group in the country. Therein lies our nervousness about some of the parts of this particular bill.
We appreciate your inviting us to come and testify. I have tried to capsulize it. I normally take 30 minutes to do my sermon. I would say to you that you need to put a check in the mail because I have cut it short purposely.
[The prepared statement of Reverend Fails follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF REV. WILLIAM FAILS, HIGHPOINT, NC
HIGH POINT VIOLENT CRIME REDUCTION STRATEGY
The High Point strategy is designed to
1. identify repeat, violent or group offenders,
2. aggressively investigate and prosecute the most chronic offenders in federal and state court,
3. notify the remaining offenders of the community's future intolerance of violent acts and offer opportunities for them to leave their violent lifestyle,
Page 193 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC4. coordinate the delivery of needed community resources,
5. develop and implement a comprehensive multi-agency response to further acts of violence, and
6. evaluate the strategy to see if it is making a difference and adjust if necessary.
The process is institutionalized through a repeat of the cycle of identification, investigation/prosecution, notification, delivery of resources, response and evaluation.
VIOLENT CRIME REDUCTION STRATEGY
Response To Violent Acts
Page 194 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Repeat Strategy to Institutionalize
Mr. MCCOLLUM. You have done a very fine job of testifying, that is a remarkable thing for a minister to be able to do that.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Dr. Wintemute.
STATEMENT OF DR. GAREN WINTEMUTE, DIRECTOR, VIOLENCE PREVENTION RESEARCH PROGRAM, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, DAVIS
Mr. WINTEMUTE. It is a pleasure to be here again.
As you mentioned, I am an emergency medicine physician who, because of my clinical work in gun violence, nearly 20 years ago got involved in working on gun violence prevention. While I still practice emergency medicine in a trauma center, I also, as you mentioned, now work directly with ATF and Federal and State Departments of Justice on methods of improving and focusing enforcement of existing gun law.
I have learned that gun violence a very complex social and criminal justice and, from my perspective, also a public health problem. Lots of people die from gun violence, and that qualifies it as a public health problem. It is not amenable to single solutions. The evidence is that the greatest effect is from taking a comprehensive approach, a phrase that has been used before, to gun violence reduction that while it might well include sentence enhancements as one element, goes beyond that. I would cite Boston as an example, also mentioned here today.
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Boston began referring State level cases into the Federal system in the early 1990's. The Richmond program is actually patterned after a prior program that began in Boston. Boston went much further and incorporated some other elements that I will come to. Boston, one of our largest cities, went a full 2 years without a single juvenile gun homicide and still has a juvenile gun homicide rate that is only about 10 percent of what it was before their program began.
I would argue that comprehensive approach is missing from the piece of legislation that we are considering today, although it is available elsewhere. One example of an evidence-based intervention that could be added to such a comprehensive approach is support for an increase in focused street level law enforcement, directed particularly at illegal gun carrying as exemplified by Boston and the Kansas City Gun Experimentwhich has not been mentioned today but I expect everyone in the room is familiar with it.
Another is comprehensive gun tracing, which now is supported in part by ATF in 37 cities. I am part of the group that analyzes those data for ATF. Many other cities are clamoring to join, some had started doing this on their own basis. Several States have undertaken mandates for statewide tracing on their own initiative.
As we are learning, that sort of comprehensive data makes it possible to identify straw purchasers and scofflaw gun dealers in a way that couldn't be done before. Speaking from firsthand experience, it is possible to sit down at a computer and in 10 minutes identify the three or four people in a region of the country who show up 50100 times a year as the people who purchase guns that are later recovered in a criminal context around the entire country.
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Those people are not buying guns to enhance their personal collections. They are now feeling the touch of law enforcement in a way they didn't used to.
Another is heightened regulation of gun shows. As part of my work, I attend gun shows, hopefully incognito, on a fairly regular basis. At one show in the midwest, I encountered a nonlicensed vendor who verbally, not with signs, advertised the fact that no waiting period was necessary, no background checks need be conducted. His table was full primarily of illegal, modified, concealable, semiautomatic shotguns.
What he did have signage for was an advertisement labeling these guns as ''perfect for urban hunting.'' The shells for them, which he would sell individually or by the box, were labeled as ''urban greeting cards.'' They were advertised as being loaded with ''double aught buckwheat shot.''
While monitoring another non-licensed vendor at a show in New Mexico, observed a transaction in which a 14-year-old child discussed with his mother the cheap semiautomatic pistol that the 14-year-old child wanted to purchase. The mother gave the non-licensed vendor the money, the vendor took the money, gave the mom the change, gave the gun to the kid and the kid put the pistol in the little carrying pouch on the baby stroller that the Mom was pushing; it contained her youngest child.
As you have heard from several other witnesses, the investigative and prosecutorial resources are not sufficient to follow through on the sorts of leads that focused field work can develop, and I would argue some increase in attention to who is buying guns is needed.
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I think we are also going to hear about the importance of enforcing the law regarding the prohibition on purchase and possession by persons convicted of misdemeanor or domestic violence offenses. Persons convicted of other violent misdemeanors are also at risk. We have done research in California showing that among persons who buy handguns legally under Federal law, wait the waiting period, and pass the background check, persons who have a single misdemeanor conviction for any violent offense are nine times as likely than those with no arrest record, truly law-abiding gun buyers, to be arrested subsequently for murder, rape, robbery or aggravated assault. They are 15 times as likely if they have more than one prior such conviction.
Under Federal law they can still buy guns. In California, however, where convictions for a violent misdemeanor are now grounds for denial of handgun purchase, we have had a chance to evaluate that. We found that denial works. People who are denied the purchase of a handgun on the basis of a prior misdemeanor violent conviction have a rate of arrest for new guns or violent crime that is decreased by 50 percent compared to historical controls.
I will conclude by saying denying gun purchase to violent misdemeanants, depending on the specific offense mentioned, is supported by 70 to 90 percent of gun owners, let alone the general public.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Wintemute follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF DR. GAREN WINTEMUTE, DIRECTOR, VIOLENCE PREVENTION RESEARCH PROGRAM, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, DAVIS
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Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, good afternoon. My name is Dr. Garen Wintemute. I practice and teach emergency medicine at UC Davis Medical Center, a Level I regional trauma center in Sacramento, California, and am professor of epidemiology and preventive medicine at the UC Davis School of Medicine.
I also serve as director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis. Our research focuses on the nature and prevention of violence and on the development of effective violence prevention measures. Our most recent studies include an assessment of risk for criminal activity among legal purchasers of handguns, a study of persons whose handgun purchases are denied, an assessment of risk for violent death among recent purchasers of handguns, and evaluations of the effectiveness of denying handgun purchase to felons and violent misdemeanants.
As a violence prevention researcher I have served as a consultant for the National Institute of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (as a member of its Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative analysis group) and work closely with the Firearms Branch of the California Department of Justice.
It has become clear to all of us that violence is a complex social, criminal justice, and public health problem with multiple inciting factors. Complex problems often respond best to multifaceted solutions, and the evidence suggests that violence is no different. My purpose here today is to review a number of proven, effective methods for preventing gun violence that lie outside the scope of the legislation you are considering. My concern over the pending legislation is that it is too narrowly drawn and in particular omits these proven gun violence prevention measures. In doing so, it puts at risk the success of those interventions it proposes.
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Let me now briefly review the important interventions that have helped reduce gun violence, including Richmond's Project Exile. I will limit my comments to interventions that targeted firearms and firearm violence directly, and mainly to interventions that have been formally evaluated. Some of these interventions seek to limit demand for and abuse of firearms; others seek to limit the supply of firearms for criminal purposes; still others combined both approaches in comprehensive violence prevention efforts.
FOCUSING ON DEMAND AND USE
Changing Police Practices
In 1994, James Q. Wilson suggested that the best approach to preventing criminals from committing gun crime was to ''just take away their guns.'' The Kansas City Gun Experiment, a controlled experiment that fused science with practical law enforcement, sought to do just that. From July 1992, through January 1993, extra police patrols in a target area focused on gun-crime hot spots that had been identified by crime mapping. The widely publicized patrols were made up of officers working overtime; their mission was ''to get guns off the street as cost-effectively as possible.'' Gun seizures rose by 65% to a total of 76, of which 29 were seized by the additional patrols. Gun crime in the target area decreased by 49% during the intervention, but it rose 4% in a comparison site where usual police practices were followed. There appeared to be no displacement of crime into neighborhoods surrounding the target area.
A replication of the Kansas City experiment, conducted in Indianapolis, also sought specifically to deter illegal gun carrying and emphasized arrests. This approach produced only an 8% increase in gun seizures in the target area, but homicides fell from 11 the prior summer to 1 during the intervention period while they increased by 53% citywide. Aggravated assault and armed robbery both decreased by 40%, and total gun crime decreased by 29%.
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The largest and best known application of gun-oriented policing has been in New York City. Beginning in 1994, the New York Police Department maintained a special Street Crime Unit charged with aggressive enforcement of gun laws. The department targeted gun crime hot spots and aggressively sought sources of crime guns. From 1994 to 1997, the NYPD made 46,198 gun arrests and confiscated 56,081 firearms. Nonfatal shootings fell by 62% from 1993 to 1997. In 1998, New York had just 633 homicides, fewer than in any year since 1964.
In 1998, Jeffrey Fagan and colleagues assessed the extent to which changes in police practice were responsible for New York's decline in violent crime. They argued that the rapid and specific decline in gun crime during the early 1990s could not simply be an instance of aberrantly high rates of violence returning to baseline, as rates fell to levels generally well below those of the mid 1980s. Nor did they find sufficient changes in drug use or the city's population structure in the 1990s to account for the decrease.
The decline in homicide began in 1991, when patrol strength began to increase and enforcement priorities were broadened to include ''quality-of-life'' offenses. Moreover, the decline in homicides was initially limited to those occurring on the street and therefore most likely to be deterred by an increased patrol presence. Other homicides began to decline only in 1994. They concluded that there was good circumstantial evidence, at least, that changes in police practices were partly responsible for the decline in violent crime in New York.
It is less clear that the aggressive policing tactics that characterized the newer Street Crime Unit were necessary. The decline in homicide began during a prior city administration that relied on community involvement and problem oriented policing. The New York Times recently contrasted New York with San Diego, which also relied more heavily on community involvement. Although it took a very different approach to the problem, San Diego saw a 75% decrease in homicide after 1991, similar to New York's drop of 66% since 1990.
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Increasing Criminal Justice Sanctions
Federalizing prosecution of some firearm-related crimes has recently received widespread attention. In many cases, federal penalties for possession of firearms by felons and for drug offenses involving the use of firearms are stiffer than those imposed at the state level.
In February 1997, Richmond, Virginia initiated Project Exile, a practice of screening potential prosecutions and referring to the federal system those in which the potential penalties were tougher there. By February 1999, there had been 404 federal indictments, and the conviction rate was 86%. The average prison term was more than 4.5 years. Homicide decreased by 36% from 1997 to 1998. Richmond's experience has not been compared to that of cities without such programs, so it is impossible to know for certain that the change in prosecution tactics bears major responsibility for the decrease. No data on recidivism are available, but all of those incarcerated are presumably still in prison at the time of writing. Similar programs have since begun in Philadelphia, Rochester, San Francisco-Oakland, and elsewhere.
FOCUSING ON SUPPLY
Tracing Crime Guns
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) first began tracing the ownership of firearms in 1972. In 1994, ATF began a series of valuable initiatives. Law enforcement agencies were asked to provide more complete information on confiscated guns, including the identity of the gun's possessor and of any associates, the date on which the gun was confiscated, and the nature of the crime involved. ATF merged this end-user information with the results of its own tracing investigations. As these reports were compiled and examined, patterns began to emerge. A small number of persons were identified as frequent first purchasers of guns recovered in crime, sometimes over large regions of the country. They could be investigated as potential straw purchasers and could provide links to gun traffickers. Individual gun crime cases could be linked by computer across common elements to provide new leads for field investigators.
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In 1996, ATF began a program of comprehensive crime gun tracing. Participating cities, of which there were 37 by 1999, submitted tracing requests to ATF for all confiscated firearms. This both helped to solve individual cases and yielded a much clearer picture of the dynamics of the illegal gun market. In 1993, ATF conducted just 54,195 traces. This rose to more than 205,000 by 1999, and several states had adopted requirements that data on all confiscated crime guns be submitted to ATF.
The utility of gun tracing as a tool for solving crimes and understanding the illegal firearms market will continue to grow. ATF's expanding program of comprehensive crime gun tracing and a new ability to record each gun's ballistic ''fingerprint'' at the time of manufacture should help significantly.
Increased Oversight of Dealers
ATF began to tighten oversight of both prospective and current dealers in 1993, under a new National Firearms Program. These actions were reinforced by the 1993 Federal Firearms Licensee Reform Act and the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.
The total number of federal firearms license holders fell from 287,000 at its peak in 1993 to just 86,180 by October, 1999, a 70% drop. A 1996 survey by the General Accounting Office found that license holders who were engaged in the legitimate business of selling guns appeared to be relatively unaffected by the changes. Of 80 dealers who had let their licenses expire in late 1994 or early 1995, only 2 had sold more than 100 guns in an average year.
Page 203 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Perhaps fortunately, in that it will help focus future intervention efforts, a very small fraction of licensed dealers still accounts for a very large share of crime guns, at least as reflected by ATF's tracing data. A recent study focused on nationwide traces for 19961997. Of 89,771 dealers in all, just 890.1% of the totaleach had more than 100 traced guns linked to them and together accounted for 23% of all traced guns. Another 415 dealers, each with between 25 and 99 gun traces, accounted for another 23% of traces.
Future enforcement efforts are likely to focus on dealers who sell a disproportionately high number of guns that are later used in crime or who report frequent thefts. The number of dealers will also probably continue to decrease; there are only 15,00020,000 gun stores in the United States, still far fewer than the number of licensed dealers.
Increased Oversight of Buyers
Federal law has long prohibited felons, persons under felony indictment, controlled substance users, and certain others from possessing firearms. The Gun Control Act of 1968 required prospective purchasers to certify that they were not a member of one of the prohibited classes, but did not require a background check to verify that these certifications were valid. A number of states instituted background checks on their own, and found that 1% to 2% of prospective handgun purchasers were prohibited persons.
Federal requirements changed in 1994 following the enactment of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. The Brady Act required a five-day waiting period prior to handgun purchase, and initially also required a designated state or local chief law enforcement officer to conduct a criminal records background check.
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By 1998, 23 states operated under the provisions of the Brady Act. The others, known as ''Brady alternative'' states, had screening requirements that were at least as restrictive as Brady and operated under their state statutes. Over the five years that Brady had been in operation, all states together had screened a total of 12.7 million applications to purchase guns and had issued 312,000 denials, including 207,000 for prior felony convictions or pending indictments.
Procedures for screening handgun purchasers in the Brady states were reconfigured in November 1998. Both the waiting period and the background checks conducted by state or local law enforcement agencies were replaced by a National Instant Check System (NICS) administered by the FBI. During NICS' first year of operation, nearly 90 percent of background checks were completed within two hours of application; 72 percent were completed within 30 seconds.
Screening prospective handgun purchasers reduces risk for later criminal activity among felons whose applications to purchase handguns are denied. In a recent California study, 170 felons whose handgun purchases were denied were compared to 2,470 handgun buyers who had felony arrests, but no felony convictions. Over three years of follow-up, the felony arrestees whose purchases were approved were 21% more likely to be charged with a new gun offense, and 24% more likely to be charged with a new violent offense, than the felons were. In Florida, a significant decrease in homicide rates followed that state's adoption of a mandatory waiting period and background check for handgun purchase.
Some 18 states and Washington, D.C. now deny firearms to persons convicted of selected misdemeanors, typically crimes involving violence, alcohol, or drugs. California expanded its denial criteria to include persons convicted of selected violent misdemeanors in 1991.
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Among those who purchase firearms legally, misdemeanants are at substantially increased risk for committing crimes later. A California study compared handgun purchasers who had at least one prior misdemeanor conviction to purchasers who had no prior criminal history whatever. Over 15 years of follow-up, 25% of misdemeanants, but only 4% of those with no prior criminal history, were charged with a new violent offense. Among men, those who had two or more prior misdemeanor convictions involving violence were 15.1 times as likely to be charged with a violent Crime Index offense such as murder, forcible rape, robbery, or aggravated assault.
The proposed legislation does not address the important problem of violence committed by criminals who are not felons. But as with felons, making it more difficult for misdemeanants to acquire handguns is effective. A California study of violent misdemeanants who sought to purchase handguns found that denying handgun purchase appeared to reduce their risk of committing new crimes involving guns or violence by 2030%.
A rapidly growing number of cities have implemented comprehensive interventions focused on firearm violence. These interventions are organized around two principles. First, go where the money is: focus resources where the available evidence suggests they will do the most good. Second, lots of things work: implement several related interventions simultaneously to profit from synergy and reduce the possibility of adaptation.
Page 206 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The best known of these is underway in Boston. In the early 1990s, Boston focused its efforts on juvenile and youth homicides, 72% of which involved firearms. Gang members made up less than 1% of all youth in the city but accounted for 60% of youth homicide. Gang turf occupied less than 4% of the city but accounted for 25% of all serious crime, and it had particularly high rates of firearm-related offenses. Seventy-five percent of both homicide victims and homicide perpetrators had a criminal record involving on average more than 9 prior offenses. Most (55%) had been on probation; 25% of the homicide offenders were on probation at the time of the offense.
Even though the purchase of handguns was tightly regulated in Massachusetts, one-third of the traceable crime guns confiscated in Boston had been purchased within the state. This suggested that straw purchasers played an important role.
Of guns confiscated from juveniles and youth, 52% were semiautomatic pistols, and 20% had partially or completely obliterated serial numbers. New guns predominated; 25% were less than 2 years old, and nearly half of these were less than 6 months old. All these characteristics were very different from those of guns burgled from houses in Boston, indicating the lack of importance of theft as a source of crime guns in the city.
The Boston Police Department had previously mounted highly publicized special enforcement campaigns. They had included comprehensive street enforcement of even minor quality-of-life ordinances, intensive probation and parole supervision, service of outstanding warrants, and the like, along with gang mediation and other social services. Boston's new Youth Violence Strike Force adopted this approach on a sustained basis, with its interventions triggered by occurrences of weapon-related assaults. A new focus on firearms trafficking was added.
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Efforts to disrupt trafficking were triggered by confiscations of new guns of the most popular types, those on which an attempt had been made to obliterate the serial number, and those in the possession of gang members. Intensive efforts were made to identify the involved dealers and those who first purchased the guns at retail. Practitioners referred their investigations for federal prosecution when it was expected that federal penalties would be more severe.
No controlled evaluation of Boston's comprehensive intervention has been conducted, but there is strong circumstantial evidence that it has been effective. In the 4 years prior to the intervention, Boston averaged a steady 43 youth homicides each year. The program was implemented over a relatively short period of time in late spring, 1996. There were 18 youth homicides in the first year after implementation and 10 in the second.
Data are now being collected in Minneapolis, where Boston's tactics have been adapted to local conditions. The intervention began in June, 1997. In the summer of 1996, Minneapolis had experienced more than 40 homicides. In the summer of 1997 there were 5.
In the near future, many of these successful interventions will hopefully become more widespread. Focused law enforcement and increased sanctions should raise the cost of doing gun crime. Other interventions should decrease the supply of firearms for criminal use. Firearms trafficking should become more difficult and dangerous. Dealers who furnish guns for crime should be the target of more aggressive identification and prosecution efforts. I urge you to consider this broader approach as you work to prevent gun violence. Thank you.
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Mr. MCCOLLUM. Ms. Rand?
STATEMENT OF KRISTEN RAND, VIOLENCE POLICY CENTER
Ms. RAND. The Violence Policy Center is a think tank that looks at options to reduce arms violence in America. We have looked at the project Excel Approach and we think the problem is it deals primarily with gun violence after it has been committed. We need to look for ways to keep guns out of the hands of criminals in the first place and also ensure that people convicted of felonies never get access to guns again.
We think H.R. 4066, the enforce legislation, does a better job of taking a comprehensive approach to reduce gun violence. I would like to discuss a couple of things in that bill that correlate closely some research that our organization has done that we think would be a very important step in reducing gun violence.
In 1992, the Policy Violence Center did a study called ''More Gun Dealers than Gas Station,'' looking at problems associated with lack of Federal oversight of federally-licensed arms dealers. The study got a lot of attention and actually a lot of the recommendations in that study were implemented both by the Clinton administration and through the 1994 crime legislation. It increased fees for dealers, improved background checks and now we have more gas stations in America than gun dealers.
We still have some work to do and the enforce legislation would do that. I would like to give you an idea of the problem. This is a list that we got from ATF yesterday, a print out of licensed gun dealers in the State of Virginia. Obviously all these people are not operating out of gun stores. That is one of the big problems in supplying guns to criminals. We know so-called ''kitchentable dealers'' who operate out of their homes contribute significantly to criminal gun flow. H.R. 4066 would fix this problem simply by requiring if you have a dealers license you have to operate from fixed premises.
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Another issue we have carefully looked at which we don't feel is addressed by the Project Exile legislation is once a felon is released from Exile, there is a good chance that he can legally get his gun back. In 1992, the Violence Policy Center started looking into the Federal relief from disability program, a program that allowed violent, convicted felons to apply to get their gun privileges back, to allow them to legally buy guns again.
This is a representation of how the program works. You commit a crime, you get convicted, go to jail, get out of hail, get relief and you get your gun back. When we looked at 100 randomly selected cases of felons granted relief, we found 11 burglary convictions, 13 convictions for distribution of narcotics, and 4 homicide convictions.
In fact. of the 100 random cases, one-third involved either violent crimes or drug related crimes. Perhaps the most infamous felon who got relief through this program was one Jerome Sanford Brower, who pleaded guilty in 1981 in Federal court to charges of conspiracy to transport explosives to Libya in furtherance of an international plot of arm terrorists in Libya. Mr. Brower got his relief 4 years after he was released from Federal prison.
We also looked at the issue of how many of those felons who got relief went on to commit crime again and found that from 1985 to 1992, ATF was aware of 69 individuals who were subsequently rearrested for crimes including attempting murder, first degree sexual assault, abduction and kidnapping, illegal possession of a machine gun and illegal firearms possession or carrying.
It is important to note that many who got relief where the original crime was nonviolent, they later went on to commit a violent crime, one example being Michael Paul Donner of Wisconsin who had been convicted in 1977 of burglary. He was granted relief in 1986 and 2 months after he got his relief, he was rearrested and charged with first degree sexual assault and four counts of second degree sexual assault. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison.
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Just this year the Violence Policy Center has updated the study. Our new version is called, ''Guns for Felons,'' and we have highlighted the role of the National Rifle Association in protecting and expanding this program. I would request our study be made a part of the record.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Without objection, so ordered.
[The information referred to follows:]
GUNS FOR FELONSHOW THE NRA WORKS TO REARM CRIMINALS
The National Rifle Association (NRA) claims that it supports vigorous enforcement of our nation's gun laws and efforts to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Yet the NRA has actually worked to put guns back into criminals' hands. Following is the saga of the federal ''relief from disability'' program. The NRA has worked to expand and protect this guns-for-felons program that has rearmed thousands of convictedand often violentfelons.
CREATION OF THE ''RELIEF'' PROGRAM
Under federal law, those convicted of a felony are forbidden from purchasing or possessing firearms and explosives. Yet as the result of a 1965 amendment to the Federal Firearms Act of 1938, convicted felons were allowed to apply to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) for ''relief'' from the ''disability'' of not being able to buy and possess guns. The ''relief from disability'' program was established as a favor to firearms manufacturer Winchester, then a division of Olin Mathieson Corporation.(see footnote 5) In 1962 Olin Mathieson pleaded guilty to felony counts stemming from a kickback scheme involving Vietnamese and Cambodian pharmaceutical importers. Under the law as it existed at the time, Winchester could no longer be licensed as a firearm manufacturer. The ''relief from disability'' program allowed Winchester to stay in business.
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''RELIEF'' PROGRAM BECOMES FELONS' SECOND-CHANCE CLUB
Although created to benefit one corporation, the program quickly became a mechanism by which thousands of individuals with felony convictions had their gun privileges restored. In the 10-year period from1982 until 1992, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms processed more than 22,000 applications. Between 1985 and 1990 ATF granted ''relief'' in approximately one third of those cases. (ATF estimated that approximately one third of those not granted ''relief'' chose to drop out of the process, while the remaining one third were denied ''relief.'')
The crimes committed by those individuals granted ''relief'' were not limited to non-violent, ''white collar'' crimes like those committed by Olin. Through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) the Violence Policy Center obtained 100 randomly selected files of felons granted ''relief.'' Among those 100 cases were: five convictions for felony sexual assault; 11 burglary convictions; 13 convictions for distribution of narcotics; and, four homicide convictions. In fact, of the 100 sample cases, one third involved either violent crimes (16 percent) or drug-related crimes (17 percent). [Please see Appendix I for a chart of offenses.]
Examples of Felons Granted ''Relief From Disability''(see footnote 6)
Transferring Explosives to International Terrorists
In February 1981 Jerome Sanford Brower pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of conspiracy to transport explosives in foreign commerce with intent to use them unlawfully, in violation of the Arms Export Control Act. Brower was part of an international terrorist plot masterminded by former CIA agents Edwin Wilson and Francis Terpil. In 1976, Brower, a federally licensed explosives dealer, met with Wilson and Terpil and agreed to supply explosives for an unspecified ''operation'' in Libya. After meetings with Libyan officials, Terpil drafted a ''secret proposal'' outlining a six-month terrorist training program to be conducted for the Libyans. Brower transported explosives to Libya and instructed the Libyans in defusing the explosive devices. Brower eventually pleaded guilty. He received a four-month prison sentence and was fined $5,000. He received ''relief'' four years later.
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Aggravated Assault and Aggravated Robbery
Jon Wayne Young pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and aggravated robbery in Minnesota in 1976. Young had a history of sex-related offenses dating back to the age of 13. At Young's sentencing the judge stated: ''You placed another person's life in jeopardy, in danger, and that person could have been killed by you . . . [Y]ou don't have enough control of your own actions to prevent that sort of thing. It is lucky, fortunate, that the girl wasn't killed, and the reason probably that she wasn't killed is that she submitted to you but had she fought you undoubtedly she might have been killed, probably would have been killed.'' In analyzing Young, a doctor had written, ''I was struck by the number of times therapy had been terminated with the feeling that he was unlikely to get into trouble again only to have him return once more. At this point I believe that the best predictor of Mr. Young's future behavior is his past behavior. . . .'' Young received ''relief'' in 1989.
Sexual AssaultAggravated Rape
Applicant stated that the conviction stemmed from his involvement with a former girlfriend he had been living with and subsequently was separated from. During the separation the woman telephoned him and he drove to her residence as a result of the phone call. Applicant said that he mistook her behavior as encouragement and that he had sexual intercourse with the woman. Applicant said that during their previous relationship he and the woman were into bondage and that he employed this technique during this encounter. Applicant used tape to bind her wrists and legs. Upon conclusion, the woman notified authorities and the applicant was subsequently arrested and charged with two counts of aggravated rape. He stated that one count pertained to sexual intercourse and the second account pertained to oral sex. Applicant was found guilty after a jury trial and sentenced to three years on each count to be served concurrently. He spent a short time in state prison and the balance (approximately one and a half years) at a state honor camp. The applicant's only previous arrest was for driving while intoxicated. During the interview process, one of the applicant's probation officers described him as ''scary'' adding that ''this was just a feeling he had regarding the applicant.'' He stated that ''he just didn't trust the guy'' and that the applicant had ''never admitted to the sex offense and never admitted to an alcohol problem.'' The officer recommended against granting ''relief.'' The sheriff who investigated the crime recommended ''relief,'' stating that the applicant ''had carried things too far in an attempt to renew the relationship.'' In recommending ''relief,'' the ATF special agent noted that ''although the applicant's conviction . . . is a crime of violence, no use of a weapon was involved in this incident. According to the applicant, the sexual behavior involved in this incident was similar to previously acceptable behavior. There is no question that the applicant is guilty of this crime however, based upon this investigation, the applicant is not a violent person.''
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NRA EXPANDS THE PROGRAM TO INCLUDE GUN CRIMINALS
For 20 years, however, felons convicted of crimes ''involving the use of a firearm or other weapon'' or of violations of federal firearm laws were ineligible to apply for ''relief.'' This changed in 1986, when a law backed by the National Rifle Association took effect. The Firearm Owners' Protection Act (also known as FOPA or McClure/Volkmer for the bills' Senate and House sponsors) expanded the program to allow felons convicted of gun crimes to obtain ''relief.''(see footnote 7) And gun criminals certainly took advantage of the program. Of the 100 sample cases obtained by the Violence Policy Center, eight were for firearm violations, including two convictions for illegal sales of machine guns.
Examples of Felons Granted ''Relief'' in 1989 for Convictions that Included the Use of Firearms or Violations of Gun Laws
Firearms ViolationIllegal Sale of an NFA Weapon, Machine Gun
Sherman Dale Williams pleaded guilty to two counts of illegal transfer of machine guns and was sentenced to three years probation. Williams was a gun collector who stated he had four machine guns, two of which were registered as required by law, and two of which were not. Williams eventually sold the guns to undercover ATF agents for $500. A federal search warrant was served and three more unregistered machine guns and five improvised destructive devices were recovered from his home. In interviews with his neighbors, one, who had known Williams for 15 years, said that he was ''the type of neighbor that always wants to keep to himself'' and that he was unsure whether the applicant would be a threat to the community if he were able to possess a firearm. He described Williams as kind of strange acting, but was unable to say exactly why. Another neighbor, who had known Williams for 12 years stated that he did not like the applicant and that he had a reputation as a crook. The neighbor added that it would not surprise him if he already had guns. One female neighbor who had known Williams for 14 years stated that he was a ''recluse'' type who kept to himself. Stating that she was unable to comment further she added ''that she preferred . . . if he were allowed to own firearms, [that the applicant] did it somewhere else and not in her neighborhood.'' The ATF investigator noted, ''She was unable to express why she felt this way.'' The investigation also revealed that in 1977 Williams had possessed and sold a .22 pistol to an undercover ATF agent in the presence of an informant. The U.S. Attorney's office declined to prosecute. When reminded of this incident Williams explained that he had acted as the middleman in the transaction and had never actually touched the firearm. The agent to whom the handgun had been sold stated that Williams did handle the weapon and took an active part in the transaction. Local law enforcement personnel, including the chief, three detectives, and a detective sergeant felt that if Williams were granted ''relief'' he would be a threat to the community. The officers, however, had no documentation (police reports, police contacts, or intelligence information sheets) to substantiate their fears. In his recommendation the investigating agent noted, ''During this investigation, the law enforcement community and a few neighbors expressed great concern [regarding Williams'] being granted 'relief,' however, no documentable reasons for denying him his 'relief' were produced. Because of this lack of documentation, I have no choice but to recommend that [he be] granted 'relief.'''
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HomicideManslaughter Involving a Firearm
Applicant entered a plea of guilty to one count of voluntary manslaughter. Applicant had killed his cousin with a 16-gauge shotgun. He and his cousin had both been intoxicated at the time. Applicant stated that his cousin had beaten him severely and had threatened to kill him prior to the shooting. Applicant served approximately 24 months and was granted parole on November 11, 1976.
Brandishing a Firearm
In 1975 applicant pleaded guilty to burglary. The applicant and a juvenile had been arrested after they broke into a mining company garage and attempted to take tools valued at approximately $3,000. In a pre-investigation interview with an ATF agent, applicant admitted that he had failed to list two other convictions on his application, one for burglary and the other for brandishing a firearm. Both had occurred in approximately 1980. The applicant stated that he hadn't listed additional convictions because he couldn't remember the exact dates. The applicant stated with regard to brandishing a firearm charge, he had come home drunk one night and got into an argument with his now ex-wife and her sister. He then went to the closet, took out an unloaded gun and asked his sister-in-law to leave his house. In his recommendation, the investigating agent stated that although ''relief'' was endorsed by the applicant's neighbors, co-workers, and references, ''the fact that the applicant was not truthful in completing his application by withholding past convictions [and] is a recidivist, one conviction was for brandishing a firearm, and the date of his last conviction has been less than ten years, it is felt a denial of this application would be appropriate.'' Following a letter from the applicant after denial, the decision was apparently reversed. A 1989 letter from ATF stated that, ''After careful review of our investigative report and other pertinent documents concerning your application, we have decided to grant your application for restoration.''
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Drugs-Possession (Heroin, Dolophine)
Applicant had been a compulsive gambler and drug addict for 20 years. Applicant had been indicted for possession of approximately two ounces of heroin, 10 dolophine tablets, and possession of a flare pistol modified to shoot 12 gauge shotgun shells. He was ordered into the custody of the attorney general as a drug addict for a treatment period not to exceed 10 years. Applicant had sold heroin to support his habit and ''had sold to the wrong person and got busted.'' Previous arrests included gambling (shooting dice), carrying a deadly weapon (a gun), and grand larceny. The larceny and weapon charges stemmed from the applicant being stopped by police, a gun and stolen clothing were found in his car. Applicant had also been court martialed, imprisoned for four months, and received a bad conduct discharge from the armed forces after going AWOL. Applicant sought ''relief'' to go hunting.
TAXPAYERS FOOT THE BILL TO REARM FELONS
Running the ''relief from disability'' program cost taxpayers in excess of $21 million between 1985 and 1991, requiring the manpower of roughly 40 full-time staffers.
FELONS GRANTED ''RELIEF'' COMMIT NEW CRIMES
The costs associated with the ''relief'' process were generated partly from a background investigation including interviews with employers and neighbors. This process, however, failed to weed out all of the applicants prone to future criminal conduct. The VPC found that of those granted ''relief'' from 1985 to 1992, 69 were subsequently re-arrested for crimes that included: attempted murder; first degree sexual assault; abduction/kidnapping; child molestation; illegal possession of a machine gun; trafficking in cocaine, LSD, and PCP; and, illegal firearms possession or carrying.
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Examples of Felons Granted ''Relief'' Who Were Subsequently Re-Arrested
Thomas E. Fleming of Kentucky was convicted of trafficking in a controlled substance in 1973. He was granted ''relief'' in 1985. Two years later he was arrested for trafficking in cocaine, with the disposition unknown. In 1988, he was arrested again, this time for the possession and sale of an illegal machine gun, a 924(c) [firearms] violation. He received 10 years for the firearms violation.
Alan Matthew Dobbins of Texas was convicted of burglary in 1975 and was granted ''relief'' in 1985. In December1986 he was arrested for driving under the influence and sentenced to 18 months probation. In April 1987 he was arrested for driving while intoxicated, which was dismissed. In July 1987 he was arrested for injury to a child and received one year probation.
Randy Winston Mock of Florida was convicted of grand larceny in 1974. He was granted ''relief'' in May 1985. He was arrested in June 1985 for the sale of LSD and sentenced to five years in prison.
Theodore Marko of South Carolina was arrested and convicted of housebreaking and larceny in 1976. He was granted ''relief'' July 21, 1986. On July 24, 1986three days laterhe was arrested for auto breaking (five counts), grand larceny, and fraudulent checks. The disposition of these charges is unknown.
Charles Wellons of North Carolina was arrested in 1976 for the possession of marijuana. He was granted ''relief'' in 1986. He was arrested in 1987 for possession of cocaine, which was dismissed. He was arrested again in 1987 for possession with the intent to distribute cocaine and given a 15-year sentence which was suspended, and he was ultimately given five years probation for that charge. He was also charged with transportation of cocaine and possession of prescription drugs, and was given a one year suspended sentence for each of these charges.
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Lewis John Towe of Virginia was arrested in 1980 for larceny. He was granted ''relief'' in 1986. In 1987 he was arrested for bad check (felony), no disposition listed. In 1990 he was arrested again for two counts of destroying personal property, no disposition listed. He was arrested again in 1990 for two counts of attempted murder. The charges were dismissed.
John William Connolly of Michigan was arrested for attempted felony theft of a motor vehicle in 1977. He was granted ''relief'' in 1987. One year later he was arrested for conspiracy to export cocaine and exportation of cocaine. The disposition of these crimes is unknown. In 1989, he was again arrested, this time for felony malicious destruction of property, no disposition listed.
''RELIEF'' PROGRAM DE-FUNDED
In 1992, after the Violence Policy Center publicized the details of the program, Congress added language to ATF's annual appropriations bill prohibiting the agency from using federal funds to review ''relief'' applications from felons (such spending prohibitions must be renewed every year). The NRA opposed efforts to close down the program, testifying before Congress in support of it and defending the program in the press. ''There is no reason why a person who has demonstrated they are now a good citizen should be deprived of their right to own a firearm. . . . We ought to recognize that some people can change,'' the NRA told the Washington Post in 1991. The congressional funding bar, however, is far from the end of the story of the ''relief from disability'' program. The gun lobby has made several attempts, and resorted to outrageous means to revive this guns-for-felons program.
REPUBLICANS AND NRA TRY TO REVIVE ''RELIEF'' PROGRAM
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The funding ban was renewed each year until 1995 when Republicans on the subcommittee overseeing ATF's budget voted to lift the spending ban. The Republicans put forward a plan that would have charged applicants a feewith the National Rifle Association championing Republican efforts. The NRA's usual tough-on-crime rhetoric softened substantially when talking about felons eligible to apply to the ''relief'' program. ''We're talking about individuals who may have run afoul of federal law but paid their debt to society,'' the NRA's spokesman stated to the Washington Post in 1995. The Republicans backed down when the proposal was heavily criticized by law enforcement organizations, gun control advocates, and congressional Democrats.
NRA LAUNCHES SECOND ATTEMPT TO RESUSCITATE ''RELIEF'' PROGRAM
In 1996, there was yet another attempt by the NRA to revive the ''relief'' program, this time for ''non-violent'' felons. This effort was undertaken despite plentiful examples of felons who had been granted ''relief'' for non-violent felonies who then went on to be re-arrested and convicted of violent crimes.
Examples of Felons Granted ''Relief'' for Non-Violent, Non-Firearm, or Non-Drug Related Crimes Subsequently Rearrested for Crimes of Violence, Firearm-Related Crimes, or Drug-Related Crimes
Michael Paul Dahnert of Wisconsin was convicted in 1977 of burglary. He was granted ''relief'' in 1986. Two months after ''relief'' was granted, he was re-arrested and charged with first degree sexual assault and four counts of second degree sexual assault. Dahnert received five years in prison.
Page 219 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Michael Owen Tuttle of Washington was convicted of delivery of a controlled substance in 1980. He was granted ''relief'' in 1986. In 1989 he was arrested for child molestation. The disposition of the charge is unknown.
Jimmy James Everhart of Illinois was convicted in 1980 of making false statements to a bank. He was granted ''relief'' in 1986. He was re-arrested in 1989 for aggravated assault and unlawful use of a weapon. The disposition of those charges is unknown.
Cosimo D'Aloia of Pennsylvania was convicted of burglary, criminal conspiracy, and theft in 1981. He was granted ''relief'' in 1987. In 1988, he was arrested for criminal attempted rape, indecent assault, false imprisonment, and harassment. He was found guilty of indecent assault and sentenced to two years probation.
Frank Earnest Foster was convicted in 1982 for his third offense of driving while intoxicated. He was granted ''relief'' in 1987. Later that year he was arrested for first degree sexual assault for which he was sentenced to three to nine years confinement. The sentence was reduced to two years probation.
James Morgan was convicted of perjury to a grand jury in 1977. He was granted ''relief'' in April 1988. He was arrested in 1988 for first degree wanton endangerment and sentenced to six months confinement and two years probation.
Douglas Perkins of Louisiana was convicted in 1974 for the distribution of marijuana and barbituates. He was granted ''relief'' in 1985. In 1986, he was arrested again for the possession of marijuana, possession of a controlled substance with intent, and possession of illegal weapon concealed. The disposition of the charges for those crimes is unknown. In 1987 he was held in contempt of court, and charged with possession of a controlled substance, and possession of an illegal machine gun. He was given five years probation for each charge. He was arrested again in 1988 for escape, simple work release, and self mutilation. No disposition was listed for any of these crimes.
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NRA USES ''LIES'' AND DISTORTION TO HELP REARM FELONS
To accomplish their goal of reviving the program for non-violent felons, the NRA relied on gross misrepresentations regarding an amendment offered by then-Representative (now Senator) Richard Durbin (DIL). The Durbin amendment was intended to clarify the scope of the effect of deletion of funding in the annual spending bills.
Since the ATF program was defunded in 1992, felons have begun to flood the federal courts with petitions to get their gun privileges back. Durbin therefore offered additional language to the fiscal year 1997 funding bill that would have made it clear that Congress never intended to shift the burden of investigating applications from felons from ATF to the courts.
An NRA alert to members of Congress stated falsely that Representative Durbin's amendment would remove restrictions on violent felons and drug traffickers and ''put the public at the mercy of the unfettered discretion of liberal judges.'' The Durbin amendment was defeated because of the NRA's tactics. Then-Senator Paul Simon (DIL)the Senate sponsor of Durbin's amendmentissued a scathing press release in which Simon stated, ''The NRA liedand that's the only word for itto score this temporary victory for these felons.'' Rep. Durbin was quoted in the same press release stating, ''The NRA has stooped to a new low in its effort to help make sure convicted felons can purchase firearms.''
NRA FORCES COURTS TO RUN ''RELIEF'' PROGRAM
Page 221 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Representative Durbin and Senator Simon were unsuccessful in adding language to the funding prohibition to prevent felons from resorting to the courts for ''relief.'' Moreover, the NRA-backed FOPA had added an amendment to federal law in 1986 that further expanded the rights of convicted felons. That provision explicitly provided for judicial review in cases in which ATF denied a felon ''relief.'' Therefore, the federal courts have been forced to grapple with applications for ''relief'' from individual felons.
There is currently a split in the U.S. Courts of Appeals as to whether felons who may no longer apply to ATF for ''relief'' because of the elimination of funding for the program may still seek ''relief'' from the courts. The Fifth Circuit and the Ninth Circuit have ruled that the courts lack jurisdiction to consider appeals from felons seeking to have their firearm privileges restored. The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and a federal district court in Texas, however, have taken a contrary stance. The Supreme Court has declined to resolve this split in the federal circuit courts.
The Third Circuit case Rice v. United States,(see footnote 8) involved a plaintiff convicted under federal law of possession of firearms by a convicted felon. Rice had been convicted of state felonies involving stolen automobile parts. He received a pardon from the governor of Pennsylvania for his state crimes. He then sought ''relief'' from ATF. The agency was unable to process Rice's application because of the funding prohibitions contained in ATF appropriations for fiscal years 1993 through 2000.
Rice then filed an action in U.S. District Court for judicial review of ATF's failure to act on his application. The district court ruled against Rice. But the Court of Appeals reversed the ruling of the lower court stating, ''The appropriation acts presently before us fail to show a clear intent to repeal section 925(c) or to preclude judicial review of BATF's refusal to grant relief from firearms disabilities.'' The Court of Appeals ordered the lower court to determine whether Rice had met his burden of showing he ''will not be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety and that the granting of the relief would not be contrary to the public interest.''
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The District Court then held a hearing and determined the following facts: Rice had pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property and conspiracy to commit larceny in 1971 at the age of 21. In 1986, Rice had acquired 38 handguns with knowledge that it was illegal for him to purchase or possess them. This led to Rice being charged by the federal government with unlawful possession of firearms, to which he pleaded guilty. In 1992, Rice was granted a pardon for his state conviction by the governor of Pennsylvania, after which he filed his third application with ATF for ''relief from disability.'' The court then concluded that ''Rice has been the victim of an unfortunate set of circumstances and bad timing . . .'' and that he would ''not be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety. . . .'' The court, therefore, restored his firearm privileges.
Adhering to the Third Circuit's ruling, other lower courts are hearing petitions from felons and have granted ''relief'' to the following felons:
Gaetano Quintiliani who was convicted of receiving stolen property in 1974.
Louis Pontarelli, who was convicted of bribery in 1992 in connection with contracts for his construction company.
Thomas Lamar Bean, a Texas gun show dealer who was convicted of illegally transporting ammunition into Mexico in 1998.
These cases are clearly just the beginning of a parade of felons who will seek ''relief'' through the courts in jurisdictions with rulings favorable to felons.
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The current status of the ''relief from disability'' program is already resulting in the expenditure of significant judicial resources to make determinations as to whether individual felons are entitled to restoration of firearms privilegesresources that might better be spent hearing gun prosecution cases. This result was clearly not the intent of Congress when it zero-funded the ''relief'' program. Having courts making determinations regarding a felon's fitness for restoration of firearms privileges may actually cost taxpayers more than the ATF ''relief'' program since litigation is very expensive. As the Fifth Circuit observed in United States v. McGill(see footnote 9), ''We cannot conceive that Congress intended to transfer the burden and responsibility of investigating the applicant's fitness to possess firearms from the ATF to the federal courts, which do not have the manpower or expertise to investigate or evaluate these applications.''
The history of the guns-for-felons program proves the blatant hypocrisy of the National Rifle Association. The NRA calls for tougher enforcement of gun laws and swift, sure, and final punishment for criminals. But the NRA has worked harder to re-arm convicted felons than it ever has to keep guns out of criminals' hands. Congress should eliminate the ''relief from disability'' program once and for all.
APPENDIX I: 100 CASES OF FELONS GRANTED ''RELIEF'' CRIME CATEGORY TOTALS
APPENDIX II: EXAMPLES OF FELONS GRANTED ''RELIEF FROM DISABILITY''
Page 224 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC1) Alcohol ViolationDrinking and Driving Resulting in Injury
Applicant was found guilty of one count of assault in the third degree with a motor vehicle and was sentenced to a five-year term of imprisonment with a one-year mandatory minimum in physical custody. It is unclear how much time was actually served. Applicant was released from final parole in January 1984. The conviction stemmed from the applicant's vehicle colliding head-on with another vehicle. According to witnesses, the applicant had been very drunk, and his car crossed the center line and hit an oncoming vehicle occupied by three people. During the course of the investigation additional arrests or convictions for the years 1967 to 1978 were discovered that had not been listed on the application, including: juvenile burglary, disorderly conduct, minor in possession of alcohol, and driving while under the influence. The applicant, who had stopped drinking since the accident, sought ''relief'' so that he could hunt.
2) Assault (With a Hammer)
Name: Mr. Frederick(see footnote 10)
During an argument, applicant, Mr. Frederick, hit one of his supervisors in the head with a hammer. He entered a plea of guilty to assaulting a federal employee on a government reservation and received five years probation. ''Relief'' was sought so that applicant could hunt with his son.
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Applicant was adjudged to have committed the offenses of conspiracy to counterfeit federal reserve notes and counterfeiting of federal notes. He was sentenced to six months confinement, and three years probation with 500 hours of community service upon release. Applicant claimed that he had been a printing hobbyist and at the suggestion of his nephew had made federal reserve note plates out of curiosity to see who could produce the best facsimiles. Without his knowledge some of the $20 and $100 bills were circulated. Yet, in April 1989, a former Secret Service Agent told the ATF investigator that when a search warrant was executed at the applicant's residence, numerous plates as well as ''Posse Comitatus'' and ''Sword, Covenant, and Arm of the Lord'' right-wing extremist material was found. This information was corroborated by a second Secret Service agent who added that at the time of the search warrant, the applicant was in possession of approximately $5 million worth of printing equipment, more than 100,000 rounds of various commercial ammunition, reloading equipment and enough black power to make again that quantity, 12 paramilitary/hunting knives, numerous long guns, approximately two handguns, and a crossbow. Material was also found indicating that the applicant was printing tax protest information.
4) DrugsDistribution (Cocaine)
Applicant pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute a Schedule II controlled substance. On three occasions applicant was seen by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents supplying ounce quantities of cocaine to another person. The cocaine was intended for street use, as evidenced by its low quality. Although applicant was initially suspected of being part of a large cocaine ring, DEA agents concluded that he was a low level user and supplier of cocaine. Applicant received a suspended prison term of five years, was placed on probation, ordered to perform community service, and required to pay a fine of $2,100. Applicant applied for ''relief'' to pursue his hobby of target shooting.
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5) DrugsDistribution (Cocaine)
Applicant pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine with intent to deliver. Applicant, a police informer, purchased a small amount of cocaine. Following the purchase, the applicant was stopped by a uniformed police officer and subsequently gave consent to a search of his vehicle. The search revealed six bindles of cocaine and the marked money used for the controlled purchase. Applicant gave consent to a search of his bedroom, which produced numerous bindles of cocaine, containers with various pills and capsules, a quarter pound of marijuana, and $4,685 in U.S. currency. Applicant was sentenced to 90 days in jail, fined $750, and placed on three years probation. Applicant was released from probation on March 30, 1987. ''Relief'' was sought so that the applicant could go hunting.
6) DrugsPossession (Heroin) and Other Crimes
Applicant was a former heroin addict who was arrested while in possession of 9.9 grams of powder containing heroin. He was originally charged with possession of a narcotic drug and pleaded guilty to unlawful use of heroin. He was sentenced to one year imprisonment. ''Relief'' was sought for four other felony crimes. Applicant had broken into a garage and stolen a lawnmower. Originally charged with breaking and entering a building, he pleaded guilty to larceny in a building and was placed on two years probation. In the third conviction, applicant was originally charged with larceny from a person as the result of a purse snatching. He pleaded guilty to attempted grand larceny and was sentenced to 20 to 30 months imprisonment. In the fourth conviction, applicant had stolen seven overcoats from a Montgomery Ward Department Store. He was found guilty of larceny in a building and was sentenced to six months of weekends in jail and three years probation. In the fifth conviction, applicant pleaded guilty to stealing a bicycle from a mall and was placed on two years probation. A record check conducted during the investigation revealed additional arrests and convictions: applicant pleaded guilty to unlawfully taking and using automobile and was placed on two years probation; applicant was arrested for larceny under $100 and paid a $50 fine; applicant pleaded guilty to concealing stolen property (bicycles); applicant was arrested for receiving and concealing stolen property and was sentenced to 60 days; applicant was arrested for engaging a female for an act of prostitution, pleaded to a reduced charge and was sentenced to three months probation. All violations occurred more than 10 years before ''relief'' was granted. ''Relief'' was sought so that applicant could ''be made a whole citizen.'' Applicant also planned to open a clothing store and felt he may need a firearm for the protection of his employees and himself. Applicant also noted he may want a gun for home protection.
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Name: Mr. Golna
Applicant, Mr. Golna, conspired with others selling items of gambling paraphernalia (punchboards, tipboards, Bingo games) to various private clubs and fraternal organizations. Golna, a law enforcement officer, extorted money from these clubs by threatening them with possible police raids if they did not purchase gambling paraphernalia from him. Golna was ordered imprisoned on an extortion charge for two years on condition that he be confined to a jail-type institution for 90 days. The remainder of the sentence was suspended and he was placed on probation. Golna was ordered imprisoned for a term of two years for each of the nine counts conspiracy, aiding and abetting, on the condition that he be confined to a jail-type institution for a period of 90 days on each count. The remainder of the sentence for each count was suspended and he was placed on probation. All sentences were to run concurrently. One interviewee characterized Golna as a ''quick tempered and boisterous type'' and would not recommend his owning a firearm. Golna reportedly told friends that he wanted ''relief'' so that he could carry a handgun, even though he told ATF that he sought ''relief'' to go hunting.
8) HomicideDrinking And Driving
The applicant was convicted of felony homicide and causing bodily injury by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle and was sentenced to a term of five years probation. The applicant had struck an oncoming motorcycle, killing the driver and seriously injuring the passenger. The applicant was released from probation in April 1987. In 1989 ATF acted on the applicant's ''relief'' application. Restoration was requested so that the applicant could hunt with family members.
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9) HomicideDrinking and Driving
Applicant had initially been charged with murder as the result of a traffic accident in which the applicant was driving while intoxicated and caused the death of another motorist. The applicant entered a plea of guilty to an amended charge of reckless homicide and was sentenced to five years in a state reformatory. He served 13 months of that sentence and was subsequently granted parole. Applicant had been driving home and was intoxicated when he fell asleep and crossed the center of the roadway, striking another vehicle head-on, killing its driver. Applicant sought ''relief'' so that he could go hunting.
10) Sexual AssaultSexual Abuse of a Child
The applicant, 34 years old in 1989, was arrested following a complaint filed by his ex-wife. Applicant was arrested and charged with first degree felony, rape of a child. The applicant pleaded guilty to sexual abuse and was sentenced to an indeterminate term of not less than one year nor more than 15 years. The sentence was suspended and the defendant placed on probation for 18 months with the stipulation that he spend one year in work release. The local police department determined the facts of the case to be as follows: the applicant's 14-year-old stepdaughter by a previous marriage was visiting his home. A ''rough-house'' type of play turned into a ''tickling incident'' and ultimately led to the applicant masturbating onto the girl's stomach. The girl later told her mother who made the complaint to the police. In approving ''relief,'' the ATF investigator noted that the felony conviction was five years old and ''non-violent.''
Page 229 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. RAND. It is important to note this program was expanded in 1986 by the Firearm Owners Protection Action to allow criminals convinced of gun crimes to get relief. Prior to that, those convicted of firearms crimes were not allowed to go through the program.
One example of someone who got relief for a gun crime was Sherman Dale Williams pleaded guilty to two counts of illegal transfer of machine guns and was sentenced to 3 years probation. He was a gun collector who stated he had four machine guns, two of which were registered and two which were not. He eventually sold them to undercover ATF agents for $500.
A Federal search warrant uncovered three more unregistered machine guns, five improvised destructive devices, and he went on to get his relief.
From 1985 to 1991, thousands of felons like Jerome Sandford Brower and Sherman Dale Williams received relief from the Federal Government at a cost to the taxpayers of more than $21 million. After the Violence Policy Center publicized this program, it has been defunded by Congress through the appropriations process. We have had to fight every year to make sure that the funding prohibition remains in tact. The NRA has tried repeatedly to revive the program and because of another amendment in the Firearm Owners Protection Act, which allows felons access to the courts to receive relief, felons are in fact today receiving relief through Federal courts.
One example of that Thomas Lamar Beane who was a Texas gun show dealer convicted of illegally transporting ammunition to Mexico in 1998. He go this relief just this year from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.
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We don't think it makes much sense to punish criminals, put felons away and then once they are out, they can get their guns back. We think there couldn't be anything more common sense than ensuring that convicted felons can never legally buy guns again.
We would urge this provision be enacted in addition to whatever additional measures are considered. It is one small and easy step to make sure criminals can't get access to guns.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Rand follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF KRISTEN RAND, VIOLENCE POLICY CENTER
Good afternoon Mr. Chairman, I am Kristen Rand, director of federal policy for the Violence Policy Center (VPC). The Violence Policy Center is a non-profit think tank that works to reduce firearm-related death and injury through research, policy development, and advocacy. The VPC is pleased to have the opportunity to address the issue of more effective enforcement of our nation's gun laws and specifically Project Exile: The Safe Streets and Neighborhoods Act of 2000 (H.R. 4051) and ENFORCE (H.R. 4066).
The VPC is of the strong opinion that three elements are essential if efforts to reduce firearm-related crime are to be successful. First, effective enforcement measures must be in place to prevent criminals, children, and other prohibited persons from gaining access to firearms. Second, those who violate the law must expect and receive appropriate punishment. And third, individuals convicted of felonies should be prohibited for life from obtaining firearms once they are out of prison.
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Unfortunately, the gun violence debate is too often presented as a false choice. Those who argue for tougher enforcement usually insist that no new gun laws are needed. Moreover, some who support passage of new gun laws fail to take into account the essential role of vigorous enforcement of existing laws. A dispassionate evaluation of the nature of gun violence in America leads to the inescapable conclusion that we need both. That is why the VPC prefers the ENFORCE bill to the Project Exile legislation. The Project Exile legislation creates incentives for states to adopt specified minimum sentences for criminals carrying or using a firearm in the commission of a violent or serious drug-related crime. But the bill deals with gun criminals only after they have committed their crime. The Project Exile bill would do absolutely nothing to prevent criminals from acquiring firearms, nor would it prevent convicted felons from getting guns once they are out of prison.
If one steps back to ask the question whether the Project Exile proposal is an appropriate response to the massacre at Columbine High School, the limitations of the measure become crystal clear. The deterrent effects of harsh sentencing could have had no impact on Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris; two teens prepared to commit suicide upon completion of their rampage. Instead, we must adopt a variety of measures designed to strengthen, expand, and vigorously enforce our nation's gun laws. ENFORCE provides a much more balanced and constructive approach to enforcement. ENFORCE would help prevent gun crimes from being committed in the first place. It would also ensure that convicted felons would never be able to legally obtain firearms once they are out of prison.
Please allow me to offer some examples of how ENFORCE would improve current law in ways supported by the VPC's research.
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IMPROVING OVERSIGHT OF GUN DEALERS
The vast majority of America's gun laws regulate the use of firearms. Only a few laws regulate gun dealers, distributors, and manufacturers. Furthermore, most of the laws that do focus upstream are riddled with loopholes put in place primarily through the efforts of the gun lobby. ENFORCE would plug many of the loopholes in the laws that currently regulate gun dealers. These provisions would implement changes that are long overdue.
In 1992, the Violence Policy Center exposed the many problems generated by insufficient federal and state oversight of federally licensed firearms dealers (FFLs). More Gun Dealers than Gas Stations: A Study of Federally Licensed Firearms Dealers in America documented how the more than 245,000 licensed gun dealers contributed to criminal gun flow. The study showed that the sheer number of licensed dealers prevented adequate oversight by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). This lack of oversight permitted many dealersparticularly so-called ''kitchen-table'' dealers'to serve as a significant source of firearms for criminals and drug gangs. The study documented incidents in which licensed dealers sold to ''straw purchasers'' (legal buyers who front for persons ineligible to buy guns because of a felony conviction, etc.). Also documented were cases in which dealers sold guns ''off-the-books'' to convicted felons so that no record was kept of the sale and the identity of the purchaser could not be verified. Another method that some dealers used to distribute guns to criminals was the ''buy and dump'' in which unscrupulous dealers used their FFLs to purchase large quantities of weapons and then sell them to criminals with no record made of the sales.
The VPC's study helped spur legislation that increased dealer licensing fees and improved the background check for dealers. These changes, combined with more vigorous oversight of dealers by the Clinton Administration, have reduced the number of licensed gun dealers in America from 245,000 in 1992 to less than 70,000 today. Although America now has more gas stations than gun dealers, and the situation has improved, more needs to be done. In addition to providing funding for 600 additional ATF agents and inspectors, ENFORCE would implement many more of the recommendations made in the VPC's study. For example, the bill would:
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require dealers to undertake specific security precautions to deter firearms thefts;
require thefts from common carriers to be reported within 48 hours;
allow ATF to assess civil penalties and suspend dealer licenses;
allow ATF to conduct more than one unannounced inspection of gun dealer records; and
require that dealers keep records of all firearms transactions.
ENFORCE would add a requirement that gun dealers must operate from ''fixed premises.'' This small change would have a huge impact. It would eliminate so-called ''kitchen-table'' gun dealers. Such dealers operate out of homes, apartments and offices, often unbeknownst to neighbors or local law enforcement officials. It is impossible to know exactly how many ''kitchen-table'' gun dealers there are today. However, I have with me a 317 page print-out received yesterday from ATF of licensed guns dealers operating in Maryland. Obviously, they are not all storefront dealers.
ATF identified ''kitchen-table'' dealers as a significant source of crime guns in Project Detroit, a study undertaken by ATF in 1989 and highlighted in More Gun Dealers Than Gas Stations. The ATF study focused on crime guns recovered by the Detroit Police Department. ATF identified 13 federally licensed firearms dealers who were knowingly supplying guns to criminals. Of those 13, eight were ''kitchen-table'' dealers. For example:
Page 234 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSteve Durham provided hundreds of firearms to ''the most visible and violent narcotics organizations in the Detroit metropolitan area.'' Durham sold the weapons off the books out of his home under the business name The All-Gun Cleaning Service. Durham also solicited individuals to sign federal 4473 sales forms for firearms they had never purchased. He also supplied prospective buyers with fake names and addresses to be used on the 4473s. Between the time he was granted his FFL in September 1986 up to the time of his arrest in November 1989, ATF agents had executed three federal search warrants at Durham's home seizing several firearms which Durham had offered to sell to undercover officers posing as convicted felons.
ENFORCE would require that all FFLs operate out of fixed premises which are ''devoted to the sale of firearms and conspicuously designated to the public as such, other than a private residence.'' In other words, dealers would have to operate gun stores. In fact, some distributors already only sell to such ''stocking dealers.'' Ridding the FFL roles of ''kitchen-table'' dealers is a simple step that will help ATF better enforce the law and limit the number of guns readily available to the criminal market.
CRACKING DOWN ON GUN SHOW DEALERS
ENFORCE would clarify when an individual is dealing in firearms without a license. The bill would create a presumption that any person who transfers more than 50 firearms in a 12-month period or more than 30 firearms in one month is a dealer who must obtain a federal firearms license. This definition of ''dealer'' would help reduce illegal sales by private individuals, particularly at gun shows. The VPC examined the problems associated with gun shows in our 1996 study Gun Shows in America: Tupperware Parties for Criminals. One of the major problems identified in the study was the fact that existing law encourages private sellers to do business at gun shows. Those private sellers are exempt from performing the criminal background check and therefore have no way of knowing if they are selling to a felon or other prohibited person. Furthermore, it is very difficult under the existing standard for ATF to pursue cases against gun show sellers who are in fact unlicensed gun dealers. ENFORCE would help clarify this murky area of the law and deter private sellers from peddling large quantities of firearms at gun shows.
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The value of this provision would be significantly enhanced if it were combined with passage of the Lautenberg gun show amendment. This important amendment would simply extend the current requirement that all sales at gun stores be subject to background checks to all sales at gun shows. The proposal, as you know, is now pending in a House/Senate conference committee.
PREVENTING CONVICTED FELONS FROM POSSESSING FIREARMS
Felons Convicted Under Federal Law
In 1992, the VPC released a study examining the federal ''relief from disability'' program. Putting Guns Back Into Criminals' Hands: 100 Case studies of Felons Granted Relief From Disability Under Federal Firearms Laws documented how this programthe result of a 1965 amendment to the Federal Firearms Act of 1938allowed convicted felons to apply to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for ''relief'' from the ''disability'' of not being able to buy and possess guns. The ''relief from disability'' program was established as a favor to firearms manufacturer Winchester, then a division of Olin Mathieson Corporation. Although created to benefit one corporation, the program quickly became a felons' second chance club. The VPC reviewed 100 randomly selected cases of felons granted ''relief'' and found: five convictions for felony sexual assault; 11 burglary convictions; 13 convictions for distribution of narcotics; and, four homicide convictions. In fact, of the 100 sample cases, one third involved either violent crimes (16 percent) or drug-related crimes (17 percent). Perhaps the most infamous felon granted ''relief'' under the program was Jerome Sanford Brower:
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In February 1981 Brower pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of conspiracy to transport explosives in foreign commerce with intent to use them unlawfully, in violation of the Arms Export Control Act. Brower was part of an international terrorist plot masterminded by former CIA agents Edwin Wilson and Francis Terpil. In 1976, Brower, a federally licensed explosives dealer, met with Wilson and Terpil and agreed to supply explosives for an unspecified ''operation'' in Libya. After meetings with Libyan officials, Terpil drafted a ''secret proposal'' outlining a six-month terrorist training program to be conducted for the Libyans. Brower transported explosives to Libya and instructed the Libyans in defusing the explosive devices. Brower eventually pleaded guilty. He received a four-month prison sentence and was fined $5,000. He received ''relief'' four years later.
The VPC found that of those granted ''relief'' from 1985 to 1992, 69 were subsequently rearrested for crimes that included: attempted murder; first degree sexual assault; abduction/kidnapping; child molestation; illegal possession of a machine gun; trafficking in cocaine, LSD, and PCP; and, illegal firearms possession or carrying.
Moreover, many felons who had been granted ''relief'' for non-violent felonies who went on to be rearrested and convicted of violent crimes. For example:
Michael Paul Dahnert of Wisconsin was convicted in 1977 of burglary. He was granted ''relief'' in 1986. Two months after ''relief'' was granted, he was rearrested and charged with first degree sexual assault and four counts of second degree sexual assault. Dahnert received five years in prison.
Page 237 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The VPC updated the study this year. The new study, Guns For Felons: How the NRA Works to Rearm Criminals documents how the NRA has lobbied to expand, protect and revive the guns-for-felons program (I request that a copy of this study be entered into the record). For example, the Firearm Owners' Protection Acta bill the NRA lobbied for a decade to passexpanded the program to include felons convicted of gun crimes. Just one example of a felon granted relief after the commission of a gun crime was:
Sherman Dale Williams who pleaded guilty to two counts of illegal transfer of machine guns and was sentenced to three years probation. Williams was a gun collector who stated he had four machine guns, two of which were registered as required by law, and two of which were not. Williams eventually sold the guns to undercover ATF agents for $500. A federal search warrant was served and three more unregistered machine guns and five improvised destructive devices were recovered from his home.
From 1985 to 1991, thousands of felons like Brower and Williams received ''relief'' at a cost to taxpayers of more than $21 million. In 1992, after the Violence Policy Center publicized details regarding it, the program was defunded by Congress. Since then, the NRA has tried repeatedly to revive the guns-for-felons program.
Although the federal program has been defunded since 1992, as a result of the NRA's Firearm Owners' Protection Act, felons have been able to petition the federal courts to have their gun privileges restored. In 1997 the NRA successfully fought efforts to stop this wave of petitions currently flooding the federal courts. Just this year Thomas Lamar Bean, a Texas gun show dealer who was convicted of illegally transporting ammunition into Mexico in 1998, was granted ''relief'' by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.
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It is time to shut down the ''relief from disability'' program once and for all and that is one of the important things that the ENFORCE bill would do.
Felons Convicted Under State Law
While the federal ''relief from disability'' program is the mechanism by which those convicted under federal law may have their firearms privileges restored, those convicted under state law must look to the law of the state in which they were convicted.
The NRA-backed Firearm Owners' Protection Act also amended federal law so that restoration of civil rights by a state automatically restores the privilege of firearm possession unless the state law or individual pardon expressly forbids it. This was accomplished by changing the definition of what constitutes a felony or more specifically, a ''crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.''(see footnote 11) FOPA added a provision dictating that whether a conviction exists is to ''be determined by the law of the jurisdiction in which the proceeding is held.'' Furthermore, a conviction that has been expunged, pardoned, or where civil rights have been restored is not considered to be a conviction prohibiting that person from possessing firearms unless such pardon, etc. explicitly prohibits firearms possession.
Therefore, a felon whose convictions have been expunged or whose civil rights have been restored by action of state law is not considered to have been ''convicted'' and is not subject to federal prohibitions on gun possession, unless the state expressly provides that person may not possess firearms. Many states have state administrative procedures to restore firearm privileges or automatically restore such privileges after completion of sentence, or several years after release.
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The Violence Policy Center has researched state restoration of rights procedures in Florida. According to the Florida Office of Executive Clemency, each year approximately 300 felons apply for the specific authority to own, possess, or use firearms. From March 1994 to March 1995, 117 felons were granted the specific authority to own, possess, and use firearms, while an additional 66 convicted felons were granted a full pardon, which includes the ability to own, possess, and use firearms. In total, 183 convicted felons had their firearm privileges restored between March 1994 and March 1995. For example, individuals convicted of attempted criminal possession of a weapon, aggravated assault and battery, and possession of marijuana have had their firearm privileges restored by the state of Florida. Some of these individuals have even gone on to acquire licenses to carry concealed handguns under a Florida law that the National Rifle Association lobbied hard to pass.
ENFORCE would establish a permanent bar on firearms possession for those convicted of violent or serious drug felonies. This change in the law is long overdue.
KEEPING GUNS OUT OF THE HANDS OF DOMESTIC ABUSERS
ENFORCE would provide much-needed funding to improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), and in particular enhance the availability of records related to convictions for domestic violence and restraining orders issued in response to domestic violence incidents. The NICS system is the database used to implement the Brady background check for gun purchases.
Federal law prohibits gun purchases by those with misdemeanor convictions for domestic violence or those with restraining orders related to domestic violence pending against them. These restrictions are the most recent additions to the list of persons prohibited under federal law from purchasing and possessing firearms. Unfortunately, there is a severe need for improvements to NICS system with respect to records related to domestic violence.
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The VPC identified problems with the architecture of the databases used to perform background checks on gun buyers in our 1998 study Paper Tiger?: Will the Brady Law Work After Instant Check? The study noted that several categories of ''prohibited persons,'' including those with misdemeanor domestic violence convictions or restraining orders were generally not available in database form. The study also pointed out that data regarding such disqualifiers was not often updated.
In fact, a recent incident from Maryland graphically demonstrates the urgent need for improvements in domestic violence records access. Richard Wayne Spicknall shot and killed his two small children with a gun he obtained despite the restraining order filed against him by his wife. In fact, the Washington Post reported in October 1999 that ''as many as half of the people subject to restraining orders in Maryland were not listed in databases that state police and the FBI use to conduct criminal background checks for gun purchases.''
ENFORCE would help remedy this problem by providing resources to upgrade these databases. It is a step that could help save the lives of countless women and children.
EXPANSION OF CRIME GUN TRACING
Expansion and improvement of crime gun tracing helps us better understand the nature of gun violence and what will work to reduce it. This is an area in which the United States has made major strides and those efforts must be continued. ENFORCE would improve crime gun tracing in two important ways.
Page 241 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC First, ENFORCE would expand to 50 the number of city and county law enforcement agencies that participate in the Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative (YCGII). This important initiative traces all firearms recovered from juveniles and young adults in the participating jurisdictions. Information collected through the YCGII is invaluable in helping to identify patterns regarding the types of guns used by youthful offenders. It also provides valuable information regarding ''time to crime,'' the amount of time that elapses from the initial sale of a firearm until it is recovered at a crime scene. This kind of information helps those of us working to reduce gun violence to more effectively evaluate policy proposals that are likely to reduce gun crime and violence. For example, the Violence Policy Center performed an analysis of the data taken from the 1997 Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative to quantify the prevalence of junk guns among juveniles ages 17 and under. The VPC found that 59 percent of guns traced to juveniles were junk guns. Guns seized from juveniles accounted for one out of 10 firearms recovered by police.
Second, ENFORCE would encourage development of a ballistics tracing system that would enhance the ability of law enforcement to trace weapons when the actual firearm has not been recovered.
The ENFORCE bill contains the provisions discussed above as well as numerous other provisions to better enforce our nation's gun laws. Ultimately, the effectiveness of any enforcement strategy is only as good as the laws being enforced. ENFORCE moves us in a positive direction by combining better enforcement with smart prevention.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you, Ms. Rand.
Page 242 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We appreciate the entire panel indulging us this late time. I guess it has gotten down to Mr. Scott and me, so you don't have too many questions. I would like to ask at least 5 minutes worth of questions and yield the same to Mr. Scott.
Mr. Castaldo, you certainly suffered along with the other parents of those who were injured or killed at Columbine. It seems we have heard today a lot of questions raised about different programs, pros and cons. Most of what I heard today suggested concern that if we pass Project Exile, it will detract from other ideas and other programs, and take away resources and so forth.
For the most part, my judgment is that we should be doing this program and a number of other things. Whether I agree with everything everyone said here today about other approaches or not, but beyond that there are three broad kinds of thoughts that have come out about how we might in some manner mitigate or reduce gun crime in this country.
There is the thought of incapacitation, which is removing someone from society, that Project Exile does in getting the States encouraged to take upon themselves these mandatory sentences for those who commit these gun crimes; deterrence, which several times Mr. McCaul testified and certainly Virginia attempts to do in the process of Project Exile, and gun control, gun confiscation or related matters in that regard.
Perhaps Reverend Fails could be a fourth category which we all certainly embrace, and that is some effort at early intervention and social ways to stop these things.
The reason I was going to call on you for a question is that Ms. Blek, who is not here, and I can only pick on her words to provoke a question to you, had suggested that it is way past time to hold gunowners personally accountable and responsible for possession of firearms. That means a system where all gunowners are licensed and all guns are registered. She also says mandatory minimum sentences will do little to prevent gun deaths and injuries. I realize Columbine has some unique features, you talked about that with these youngsters out there.
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What do you think of the idea Ms. Blek suggests that we need to have all gunowners licensed, all guns registered, and what do you think of the minimum mandatory sentences in the Project Exile bill?
Mr. CASTALDO. First fall the mandatory minimum sentences taken people off the streets who, if they were not taken off the streets, would probably commit more crime. I don't understand all the statistics and have all the facts but I am certain if someone shoots someone or commits a crime and do not get caught, they don't just stop doing it, so they are free to run around on the streets and terrorize others.
I am sure someone on this panel could find cases where someone has committed multiple crimes and they had been taken off the street for the first time, the crime rate would have dropped. That is some of what has happened in the country.
The part about what went on in Columbine is difficult to assess. I believe that there is a large cultural influence and because of the lack of law enforcement, it leads to people believing they are not going to be held accountable for what they do. I think that is very important as a father and as a member of society.
To study all the causalities that cause two supposedly normal teenagers to run off and build bombs, that did not go off. If they bombs had gone off they would have killed many more students.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. You don't see gun licensing or registration as not being a factor in Columbine?
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Mr. CASTALDO. No. These kinds in their own videos that became the subject of rather large Time Magazine article, went on to state nothing could have prevented us from getting guns. They could have gotten them illegally, independent of the way they did get them. Having a license and expecting a criminal to follow the laws to go get a license is a little ridiculous.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Mr. Earley, if we pass this bill on Project Exile nationally, there will be a $100 million grant program set up over 5 years. It starts very small and builds up later. What difference will that $100 million in Federal resources would mean to the States like Virginia if it is available?
Mr. EARLEY. I think as in other programs where the Federal Government offers some sort of encouragement, financial incentive for the States to move in a certain direction, it has historically proven very positive. Certainly in terms of local law enforcement efforts, adding additional prosecutors in areas, major metropolitan areas of the United States, that would seem to me to be a very important place to focus when the States take a look at this.
It may be they would use the money for additional prosecutorial help and also for the important part of social marketing of the program. I think this sort of thing is a very good paradigm for a Federal-State-local partnership, both financially as well as in the sharing of resources across the various law enforcement offices.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Mr. Scott.
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Mr. SCOTT. We have choices to make in how we deal with crime. We have heard of the need for a balanced approach. One of the things I have noticed is that there is no balance. It is all pretty much one-sided.
We have an incarceration rate right now of so many locked up that it is really off the scale on an international level. The average in most countries is about 100 people locked up today per 100,000. The United States and Russia kind of trade places back and forth to be number one at about 600 per 100,000. In the City of Richmond already before we started Project Exile, before we started abolishing parole, the rate was about 3,000 per 100,000 locked up today.
If we wanted to get to a rate about ten times more people in jail today than the international average, if we wanted to get to that rate we would have to let two-thirds of the people out of jail because we are already at a rate of about 30 times the international average. It costs money. So we have an idea now, let us lock up more people.
I cited some studies that show that mandatory minimums did not effectively reduce crime, cost a lot of money and was racially biased. I want to know if any members of the panel have any studies to show the opposite to be true?
Mr. MCCAUL. Actually I do. This particular study came from the Northwestern School of Law. It is a comparative study of preventative effects of mandatory sentencing laws for gun crimes.
The conclusion is that the only plausible interpretation of the results is the reduction in gun homicides are due to the announcement of these new laws, meaning mandatory minimums.
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Mr. SCOTT. The announcement of the new laws. Does that mean if you have a media campaign and say you are going to enforce the law that has an effect?
Mr. MCCAUL. The law itself has an effect but in addition as we talk about the public awareness campaign, we believe that provides a deterrent effect as well.
Mr. SCOTT. I would be delighted to read the study.
Mr. Earley, we have seen reductions in crime all over the State. Has there been any pattern as to whether or not Project Exile was effective in those ares as opposed to whatever else is going on in other areas of the State?
Mr. EARLEY. I don't know of any precipitous drop in the homicide rate outside of Richmond such as Richmond has experienced. It was dramatic. There is across the country a decline in the violent crime rate. The only other city that comes close in Virginia is Norfolk which also has Project Exile now and has for almost a year and a half. They are actually getting longer sentences in Norfolk because I think the Federal judges look more kindly on the program.
Mr. SCOTT. The information I have comparing 1994 to 1998 for Norfolk that would be before Project Exile went into effect. Richmond dropped 39 percent in murder rate, Norfolk dropped 43, Virginia Beach like, 58, Chesapeake 81 percent drop in murder rate, Newport News, 23 percent. Are those consistent with the numbers you understand?
Page 247 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. EARLEY. We had drops in Richmond in 1995 and 1996 compared to 1994 but they were still way, way above where we are now. As you will recall, in Virginia in 1993, we abolished parole which we think had a pretty significant impact on that as well.
Mr. SCOTT. Reverend Fails compared to the amount of money we are spending in incarceration, could you tell us what kinds of initiatives you could enact if you had comparable amounts of money, one person with a 5-year mandatory minimum rather than 1 year would be an extra $100,000 that we are going to spend holding him for an extra 4 years.
What could you do in High Point with a few hundred thousand dollar?
Mr. FAILS. Let me say the High Point initiative, we didn't have any funding. We simply did it because the community was tired of the violence. We got a lot of volunteerism from private sector employment and employers. With some monies, we could set up different kinds of initiatives to educate these particular young people. Our situation was with young people, not with older offenders, more with juveniles.
Many of them claim part of their problem was things they didn't have. Doing drug deals and those kinds of things and carrying guns for protection is how they got into trouble. Without community-based or community oriented programs, the children or young folks tend to develop their own societal situations and develop their own means of being entrepreneurs.
If they could be guided by the same kinds of entrepreneur spirits in something that would be positive and conducive to the community, then I think we could see prevention rather than spending money on incarceration.
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There are community-based organizations, Boys Clubs, Girls Clubs, the YMCA and then there are some church based organization who do after school programs and Saturday school programs that educate young people about law and about society. Five year mandatory sentencing doesn't mean a lot to young people because they don't believe that it is going to happen to them. That is in the culture of disbelief. They don't believe they are going to be the ones who get shot. They end up being the ones shot, their parents end up with deceased young persons and I end up having to bury them. If I had dollars before they got to that point, there are some things I probably could have put in the gaps that possibly could have stopped them from going so far that I had to see them in the end.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you, Mr. Scott.
Ms. Jackson Lee, you are recognized for 5 minutes.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. First let me thank you and Mr. Scott for the very effective balance of panel three. Thank you for giving us both perspectives in a very forceful manner.
This a subject that is extremely near and dear to my heart. Let me thank Reverend Fails for providing an enhanced balance if I may either misconstrue your words or hopefully have them as you have offered them. It is important to change minds and hearts of individuals so that they will say this is not what I want to do and this is not how we live our lives.
Page 249 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I come from the State of Texas which secured its place in history in many ways but recently has having some of the highest numbers of incarcerated persons. I confront these individuals or their families in all parts of my district. It is not a respect of color or economic background, so I am puzzled when we rely so heavily on mandatory sentencing.
It is not to say, however, as Chairman McCollum knows, that I have not once or twice around this table agreed with enhanced penalties which may be a little different from mandatory sentencing but GHB, date rape drug killed some young people around this country and hate crimes which we have yet to pass I think is warranted when there is this malicious effort.
What I hope we do not get out of this hearing is what I asked in the earlier part of it, mutually exclusive proposals. I am going to ask when I have worked on an ordinance in the City of Houston dealing with parental responsibility, holding parents responsible for children getting guns, I worked with the persons who were head of the emergency room for Texas Children's Hospital. Our focus was prevention. It was not so much to lock up parents as it was to educate about the devastation of a gun wound.
We determined that it took $67,000 10 years ago and medical care to even get the child to where the child would be viable. How effective are those kinds of arguments to stopping gun violence if you will? How important is prevention, telling people the horrors of gun violence, how would that work in your opinion?
Mr. WINTEMUTE. I think they are very effective as part of a comprehensive argument. My hospital is in a State capital, and we have undertaken to bring legislators and their staff to the emergency department and have them see firsthand what it is like to be in the presence of someone who recently has been shot.
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The cost argument is also very effective. Each year's gunshot wounds consume upwards of $2 billion over the lifetime of those persons just for medical care. We can add that 80 percent of those costs are picked up by public dollars, which makes it relatively easy to say that if the public is picking up the tab, the public has a right to some input as to what happens here.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. That will lead me into my next question to Mr. McCaul. I take great pride in some of the things Texas has done and particularly take ownership in one of the laws on the books dealing with enforcement and that is the State law dealing with holding adults responsible for irresponsible acts of allowing a child to get a gun.
When I took the time to do some research on my own, particularly the concealed weapons bill which was passed, there were about 3,000 applications and we determined according to the statistics I read that about 771 should not have had it. The difficulty is those person had already gone through the safety program, so we had sexual predators, people convicted of indecency with a child, going through the program carrying a concealed weapon. They were found out but we determined that 771 of them had not been prosecuted.
In addition, a bill close to my heart that was taken from the City of Houston which did show some promise in keeping down accidental shootings, the parental responsibility, we have found in the State of Texas as well that there have been very little prosecutions. How do you comport that when support for enforcement in our own State has been very weak on that and failed to pass gun legislation or at least maybe you are supportive of gun safety legislation and I would welcome that, but it seems we take a different position when it comes to trigger locks, closing gun show loopholes et cetera. I am trying to get us on the same page and I am trying to understand why there is such a dearth of prosecution on some of these cases in the State of Texas.
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Mr. MCCAUL. I appreciate that and being from the same State, I think that is important, that we try to get on the same page. As Mr. Terwilliger said, we don't see Exile as a panacea. It is a very strong tool for law enforcement that should be passed, should be made available. It is something that we on our own decided to do in Texas. I must say in Texas we have had such broad-based support of by both Democrats and Republicans, district attorneys and U.S. Attorneys across the State. As you know the U.S. Attorneys are appointed by the President and they are probably the most enthusiastic about this program.
Having said that, I think the program itself should not get wrapped up in all this partisan rhetoric where we lose the forest for the trees. This is a good program and enjoys enormous support in our State. In fact, in your district, Mayor Brown and Chief Bradford, who I met with, strongly support Exile.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I am well aware of my city's participation. The question that I am asking is, while the 771 are still roaming the streets, are you or would the State policy be against looking at effective gun safety legislation that takes into account closing loopholes, trigger locks. I am trying to get all of us to see we should not be mutually exclusive. At the same time, I know Chief Bradford and the Mayor of the City of Houston are strong supporters, I don't want to speak for them, but for gun safety legislation having worked with them previously on many of these issues.
What we are trying to do is not have the door close. Are you here coming forward for this enforcement to the exclusion of gun safety legislation?
Page 252 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MCCAUL. I am not saying it is mutually exclusive. I am just here in support of this program and that is basically why I was invited to testify here today.
Getting to the DPS cases you are referring to, those were called to my attention a couple of months ago. They were sent to our office and after reviewing those, they were immediately referred to the Justice Department for review for Federal prosecution. In the event the Justice Department determines there are no violations of Federal law, they will be referred to the district attorney level for violations of State law.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I know the Attorney General's Office in Texas is a civil entity so I respect that. My other question would be are you getting cooperation from local district attorneys? I would imagine part of the problem is the heavy burden they would face, so that is another problem with this kind of emphasis of enforcement or prosecution and locking them up, sort of a combined effort. I am really not sure what is transpiring with our county. I thought I heard something to the fact that they weren't going to refer any cases. In any event, there lies the difficulty.
Mr. MCCAUL. Last fall, I spent a good amount of time going across the State in a very diplomatic effort to get all the district attorneys and the U.S. Attorneys on board with this whole idea. We have four U.S. Attorneys in our State, it is a big State. Fortunately, we have obtained partnership agreements with all four U.S. Attorneys and with the exception of one district attorney, every DA in the State and the one district attorney who is not on board with this has agreed to let the police refer these cases directly to the U.S. Attorneys Office. So the Exile concept can work, even in that city.
Page 253 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. JACKSON LEE. I see the light and thank you for your indulgence, Mr. Chairman. I would just ask Mr. McCaul if he would, maybe he can get this back to me in writing, which is an understanding that the Department of Public Safety that works with the Governor's office, didn't have time to do this. That is what we are hearing and I would be interested in whether or not that is their attitude about enforcing gun laws in the State of Texas, that they didn't have time.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you.
I know there are planes to catch. There are two quick questions Mr. Scott and I discussed that I wanted to ask Ms. Rand and Mr. Sukhia and then we will have to break.
Ms. Rand, do you have any statistics that show what percentage of former felons who get civil rights restored commit gun crimes later after civil rights have been restored? There has to be quite a sizable number who get their civil rights restored or who have had them restored. Are we talking about 2 percent, 20 percent, 50 percent? Do you have any idea? Do you have any studies on that?
Ms. RAND. In the Federal program, they are separate programs, and for Federal crimes, the relief from disability program is your only option. If it is a State crime, you have to seek relief from the State.
Under the Federal program, ATF was aware of around 3 percent of felons granted relief who were subsequently rearrested. I would caution that figure is only arrests ATF became aware of, it is certainly not comprehensive. We have not been able to get the data in enough detail to determine how many of those were gun related crimes.
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Mr. MCCOLLUM. And you don't know about the State statistics on civil rights?
Ms. RAND. The Stateyou would have to go State by State and my guess would be in most instances, it might not be knowable because some States will automatically restore your gun privileges say 5 years after relief from prison so there is no mechanism like the relief program to even attempt to gather that information.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Mr. Sukhia, could you give us the rationale for the value of minimum mandatory sentences? You have been a prosecutor, you talked about Triggerlock. Is there a rationale for this?
Mr. SUKHIA. I know that one of our Presidents, Thomas Jefferson, said ''The chief aim of government is to protect life. Abandon that and you have abandoned all.'' In a situation in which you are dealing with, as we said at the outset, those who have been targeted in the community as among the most dangerous and violent offenders, in my view, there is a necessity that those offenders be removed from society.
Many of the cases that we dealt with were cases in which individuals had repeatedly come before the State authorities time and time again where adjudications would be withheld, where they would be sentenced to time served only and they had learned through repeated brushes with the law, which went unpunished, this lesson that they could as Reverend Fails mentioned, continue to commit their crimes with impunity, without fear of recourse.
Page 255 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC One of the things we experienced in the Federal system was a surprise that offenders learned when they first came into that system that this would be serious, that they will be removed from society for committing these types of crimes.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. We have had some anecdotal evidence that some criminal behavior is deterred at the Federal level. If they are committing a Federal crime, they try not to. I remember hearing those stories.
I know we all have to catch planes. For the last word, Mr. Scott.
Mr. SCOTT. I want to correct a number. When I said the incarceration rate was 3,000 of 100,000 in Richmond. That is the minority rate. The overall rate is about 1,500. I saw that to just say that people know the criminal justice system is working well, you are catching people and locking them up, and just keep locking them up and it cost a lot of money. If you want to use that as your strategy, the expense in locking more people up costs a lot more and gives a lot less.
If I could get Reverend Fails to answer a couple of questions, what is the population of High Point?
Mr. FAILS. Roughly, 80,000.
Mr. SCOTT. How much would it cost to have a summer jobs program for most of the low income young people to get a summer job?
Page 256 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. FAILS. I don't know.
Mr. SCOTT. If you wanted to fund after-school programs for everyone who wanted an after-school program, about how much would it cost? You don't have those figures off the top of your head?
Mr. FAILS. I have the after-school figure because I tried to do it, about $240,000.
Mr. SCOTT. $240,000.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you, Mr. Scott.
Thank the entire panel. We really appreciate it. I know a lot of you traveled many miles. Mr. Castaldo, I know you particularly did and we thank you for coming today. We very much appreciate your testimony.
This hearing is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 5:50 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned.]
(Footnote 1 return)
The report is described in the attached fact sheet. See Attachment E.
(Footnote 2 return)
The U.S. Attorneys from these two districts have previously testified before Congress regarding the programs in their districts. Their statements are appended as Attachments F & G.
(Footnote 3 return)
Under the AVCI, the Attorney General asked each United States Attorney to meet with all pertinent federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in the district to form a new, or strengthen an existing, violent crime working group. Each office was asked to identify the district's most critical violent crime problems susceptible to a coordinated federal/state/local attack, the relative priority of these problems, the law enforcement programs and resources currently dedicated to the investigation and prosecution of these problems, the results achieved to date from these efforts, and any multi-district or multi-jurisdictional aspects of these problems. After they had collected the appropriate information, each office was asked to develop a single district plan to implement appropriate investigative and prosecutive strategies for the district. The goal of that initiative was to complement, not supplant, the efforts of state and local prosecutors. The key was to develop a strong partnership in the effort against violent crime with state and local officials in the way that would be most productive.
(Footnote 4 return)
I served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C from 197881, in Vermont from 198186, as United States Attorney in Vermont 198691 and as Deputy Attorney General 199192. I now practice law in Washington, D.C. and live in Virginia.
(Footnote 5 return)
The ''relief from disability'' program is codified at 18 USC 925 (c).
(Footnote 6 return)
For more examples of felons granted ''relief'' see Appendix II.
(Footnote 7 return)
FOPA also allowed mental patients who had been involuntarily committed, those dishonorably discharged from the armed services, and fugitives to apply for ''relief.''
(Footnote 8 return)
Rice v. United States 68 F.3d 702 (3rd Cir. 1995)
(Footnote 9 return)
United States v. McGill, 74 F.3d 64 (5th Cir. 1996)
(Footnote 10 return)
Most names of applicants were redacted from the records by ATF. Where they were given in the records, they are listed herein.
(Footnote 11 return)
18 U.S.C. §921(a)(20).