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The Trace
September 7, 2017

The False Promises of the Trump Justice Department’s Strategy for Fighting Gun Violence
By Mark Obbie

In his St. Louis speech, Sessions praised the city’s U.S. attorney’s office for its aggressive pursuit of gun-law violators, framing its work as the first half of a tidy formula. “The more of them we put in jail,” he said, “the fewer murders we will have.” But Sessions is dramatically overselling the effectiveness of his prosecution-heavy prescription, those who study gun violence say. Researchers, in fact, long ago concluded that the long prison sentences and elevated incarceration rates that result from increasing federal prosecutions have scant influence on violent crime rates. And St. Louis is a signal example of why Sessions’s strategy does not work as he promises. No other city has already tried harder and longer to do exactly what Sessions is pushing for nationwide. Since the 1990s, the St. Louis-based Eastern District of Missouri has remained in the top 10 federal court districts for per capita gun prosecution rates, according to data from Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). In more recent years, the St. Louis office has only increased its intake of gun cases, leading the nation in 2016.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
Copyright 2017
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