Sessions Wants to Imprison As Many People As Possible on Gun Charges While Opposing New Gun Laws

Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions is opposed to passing stronger gun laws, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to put a lot of people in prison on gun charges. Sessions has started a push to prosecute low-level gun offenses, a move that has absolutely nothing to do with post-Parkland activism:


Mr. Sessions is putting into action his own long-held views on criminal justice, forged as a United States attorney in Alabama during the drug war. They reflect a philosophy popular among conservatives and long backed by the gun lobby: that the effective enforcement of existing laws can reduce crime without resorting to the passage of additional legislation.

“I believe very strongly in enforcing gun laws,” Mr. Sessions said in an interview with the far-right Breitbart News this year. “I believe there’s no value in having them on the books if they’re not prosecuted.”

This is not just a few prosecutions we’re talking about:

In the three months following a directive from Mr. Sessions last year to pursue gun crimes, possession cases — a relatively routine charge — rose nearly a quarter. That was part of a 15 percent increase in all federal gun prosecutions in the first nine months of 2017.

Three out of every four federal gun charges filed in the 12 months starting in October 2016 were under a statute forbidding felons from owning or transporting a gun, according to Syracuse University’s TRAC database, which monitors gun crime statistics. The period encompasses both the end of the Obama administration and the first several months of Mr. Sessions’s term.

In general, great. Please do enforce gun laws! But one question has to be asked: what will the racial breakdown of these prosecutions look like? And should a minor drug offense a decade ago mean that gun possession now will lead to an average six-year sentence?

It would be awfully nice if it felt like the goal here was to stop gun violence rather than to put as many people as possible in prison.

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