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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Immediate Release

Monday, June 16, 2004


(202) 616-2777
TDD (202) 514-1888



Attorney General Ashcroft Praises Record Increases in Gun Crime Prosecutions

KANSAS CITY, MO - Attorney General John Ashcroft this week brought together over 1,150 federal, state, and local prosecutors, law enforcement officials, community leaders, and other members of the Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) teams from across the nation to discuss efforts to reduce and prosecute gun crime. PSN is President Bush’s comprehensive initiative to combat gun crime in America by providing locally-based programs with the tools and resources they need to succeed.

“Through Project Safe Neighborhood’s unprecedented partnership of state, local and federal leaders, we are turning the tide on gun crime,” said Attorney General John Ashcroft. “We are taking gun-wielding criminals off our streets. The last three years represent a record of great success, but working together, we can do even more to make our neighborhoods safe.”

Federal Gun Crime Prosecutions Have Increased Significantly Every Year Under Project Safe Neighborhoods. From FY 2000 to FY 2003, federal firearms prosecutions increased by 68%. In FY 2003, the Justice Department filed over 10,500 federal firearms cases-the highest number ever recorded by the Department. The number of defendants charged with federal gun crimes rose from approximately 10,600 to over 13,000 from FY 2002 to FY 2003, a record increase of almost 23%. These figures are the highest on record in a single year since the Department began recording this information. In FY 2003, nearly all - 93% - of convicted defendants, who were originally charged with federal firearms offenses, were sentenced to some time in prison for convictions on firearms charges or other charges. 72% were sentenced to more than three years in prison, and over half of all defendants convicted were sentenced to more than five years in federal prison. State and local prosecutions have also increased.

Project Safe Neighborhoods Has Contributed to Decreasing the Violent Crime Rate to Its Lowest Levels in 30 Years, But Reducing Gun Crime Remains an Important Goal. The violent crime rate is now at its lowest level since 1973, when the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics started collecting criminal victimization data. The violent crime rate for the first two years of the Bush Administration (2001-2002) was nearly 21% lower than for 1999-2000. The per capita number of violent crimes involving firearms has dropped 14% in 2001-2002, from 1999-2000. There were approximately 64,000 fewer gun crimes and approximately 12% (almost 130,000) fewer victims of gun crime in 2001-2002, than in 1999-2000.

Project Safe Neighborhoods Takes a Multifaceted Approach to Reducing Gun Crime. Gun crime reduction is President Bush’s top domestic criminal justice initiative, and the Bush Administration has devoted over $1 billion to Project Safe Neighborhoods in its first four years (FY 2001 to FY 2004). The funds have been used to hire new federal, state, and local prosecutors, provide training, hire research and community outreach support, and develop and promote effective prevention and deterrence efforts.

Across America, 94 PSN task forces are working to implement a coordinated strategy to reduce gun crime. Working side by side with the state, local and federal law enforcement participants in their communities, the U.S. Attorney and his or her colleagues in each region have identified the most pressing gun crime problems and developed strategies to attack those problems through prevention, deterrence, and aggressive prosecution. Each local program is tailored to fit the unique gun crime problem in that district.

The PSN conference is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice. To find out more about PSN and its local programs, visit the PSN website at