In observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Department of Justice announced it has charged more than 500 domestic violence cases involving firearms during fiscal year 2020.
These charges are the result of the critical law enforcement partnership between United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, led by Acting Director Regina Lombardo, who has made domestic violence firearms-related investigations a priority. Several of the cases cited were brought in the Southern District of Illinois.
“Keeping firearms out of the hands of dangerous criminal offenders is one of the Department of Justice’s top priorities,” Attorney General William P. Barr said. “This is especially important when it comes to individuals with prior domestic violence convictions. The statistics are clear that when domestic violence offenders have access to guns, their partners and their families are at much greater risk of falling victim to gun violence. In fact, in some communities across America, roughly half of the homicides are related to domestic violence. The Department of Justice is committed to keeping guns out of the hands of those who are prohibited from having them, and we will continue investigating and prosecuting all domestic violence firearms-related crimes.”
“According to the CDC, data suggests that about one in six homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner,” ATF Acting Director Lombardo said. “Nearly half of female homicide victims in the U.S. are killed by a current or former male intimate partner. ATF is committed to aggressively pursuing prohibited possession of firearms due to domestic violence convictions and certain protective orders. It is another way we prevent violent gun crime within our communities.”
Included in the national numbers were several cases prosecuted in the Southern District of Illinois where the offenders possessed a gun after sustaining at least one domestic violence conviction. Under federal law, individuals with domestic violence misdemeanor and felony convictions, as well as individuals subject to domestic violence protective orders, are prohibited from possessing firearms. The data shows that offenders with domestic violence in their past pose a higher risk of homicide. In fact, domestic violence abusers with a gun in the home are five times more likely to kill their partners.
“Domestic violence destroys households and damages children,” U.S. Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft said. “Most domestic violence cases must be handled on the state level, but in some
situations, the federal firearms laws allow us to step in and end the cycle of violence through federal criminal prosecution. And so we work closely with our state and local partners to identify and prioritize these important cases.”
“Domestic abusers should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, especially when they illegally possess firearms,” Weinhoeft emphasized.
For fiscal year 2020, prosecutors in the Southern District of Illinois charged 12 defendants with gun crimes involving a direct nexus to domestic violence. In some of those cases, the offender was charged for possessing a firearm after previously being convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence crime. In others, the offender was charged in federal court as a felon in possession of firearm because the offender had a history of domestic violence.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office also prosecutes violent crime cases where guns were used during a domestic assault. Last week, for instance, Johnnie Taylor, 40, of East St. Louis, was sentenced to 78 months in federal prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm while assaulting his girlfriend on the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge. In that case, police responded to 911 calls in the early hours of March 28, 2019. Callers saw a woman being beaten and feared that she would be thrown off the bridge. Police arrived and noticed the victim was missing clumps of her hair and appeared to be in distress. A 9mm handgun was recovered next to Taylor in the driver’s side door, along with a spent shell casing found on the floorboard. Taylor was charged and eventually pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm.
For more information on domestic violence or to get help, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website or call 1-800-799-7233.