OKLAHOMA CITY — Attorney General William P. Barr announced Tuesday the formation of a Domestic Violence Working Group focused on using the tools of federal prosecution to prevent domestic violence by keeping guns out of the hands of convicted domestic abusers and those subject to a victim protective order.
The group will operate under the auspices of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee and be comprised of nine U.S. attorneys across the country, including Western District of Oklahoma U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Downing.
“Too often, domestic abusers start with threats and abuse, and end up committing extreme violence and even homicide, with devastating impact on families and the community around them,” Barr said. “I have directed this working group to examine this issue and determine the best way to use federal gun prosecutions and other appropriate tools to supplement state, local and tribal efforts to address domestic violence.”
“Operation 922” is the Western District of Oklahoma’s violent crime initiative targeting firearms defendants who have engaged in domestic violence. Since the program began in March 2018, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has brought charges in 55 separate domestic-violence-derived cases.
To date, 48 defendants have pleaded or been found guilty. Of those, 25 have been sentenced to a collective total of 2,415 months in federal prison. Two more “Operation 922” defendants are scheduled to be sentenced this month.
“‘Operation 922’ has served as a blueprint for using federal firearms prosecutions to protect victims of domestic violence,” Downing said. “For the sake of those victimized by violent spouses and intimate partners, I am proud to be able to share our experience with the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee.”
Federal law has long barred convicted felons — as well as individuals subject to certain domestic violence protective orders or convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors — from possessing firearms.
Research shows that abusers with a gun in the home are five times more likely to kill their partners than abusers who don’t have that same access to a firearm. According to one recent study, more than half of America’s mass shootings are cases of extreme domestic violence.
Federal gun cases involving domestic violence present unique challenges. In some states, the federal and state definitions of domestic violence differ, requiring complex legal analysis that varies based on the location of conviction. U.S. attorneys’ offices have worked over the years to address these legal challenges, with tremendous success.
The Working Group will share best practices, legal analysis and guidance on prosecuting abusers who unlawfully possess guns. It also will advise U.S. attorneys across the country on outreach to local law enforcement, judges and nonprofit groups.
Working Group members are:
• Scott W. Brady, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania
• Robert M. Duncan Jr., U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky
• Nicola T. Hanna, U.S. attorney for the Central District of California
• Justin E. Herdman, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio
• Erin Nealy Cox (chair), U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas
• Christina E. Nolan, U.S. attorney for the District of Vermont
• Byung J. Pak, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia
• R. Trent Shores, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma
• Timothy J. Downing, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma