I have been closely following the
heartbreaking story of the March drive-by massacre in southeast
Washington, D.C., and especially commend the commentaries of
Washington Post columnist Colbert I. King and his rightful anguish
over the broken system of local justice in the District of
The failure of D.C. criminal law to deal with recidivist,
violent predators--what King calls "this perversion of justice and
public safety"--is dwarfed by the failure of federal prosecutors to
step in and bring to bear federal laws that are beyond the failed
As King warns, "The dirty little secret of D.C. is this: DYRS
(Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, the District's
juvenile justice agency) is a progressive idea gone wrong. The
mayor knows it. His attorney general knows it. The D.C. Council
committee overseeing DYRS knows it. No one knows it better than the
juveniles who exploit it."
He's right. The unacceptable situation in dealing with violent
criminals, especially juvenile criminals in the District, does not
have to exist.
When it comes to violent juvenile criminals and tough federal
prosecution tools, the official U.S. attorney's manual is very
explicit. You can go online and read it for yourself:
"Federal jurisdiction to initiate a juvenile delinquency
proceeding may be established … where the offense charged is a
felony that is a crime of violence or one of the drug or gun
offenses enumerated in the first paragraph of 18 U.S.C. § 5032 and
there is a substantial federal interest in the case. Juvenile
delinquency proceedings can be initiated for any federal crime if
the state declines to prosecute the matter."
In the District of Columbia--where every criminal act is
federal--that choice is clearly available to federal
But there is more:
"A motion to transfer a juvenile to federal court as an adult
may be based on the commission of a felony crime of violence or
drug or firearm offense. … "
As for firearm offenses involving criminals of any age, there is
a second tier of criminal law specifically designed to take armed
thugs off the street and truly protect the community. It is a law
that the U.S. attorney for inexplicable reasons rarely uses.
Let me quote again from the official U.S. attorney's manual:
"Firearms violations should be aggressively used in prosecuting
violent crime. They are generally simple and quick to prove."
Got that? "Generally simple and quick to prove."
The manual covers "… the mandatory consecutive and enhanced
punishment under this section, which can significantly increase a
sentence especially where firearms are used in numerous criminal
All of these provisions were supported or initiated through
NRA's efforts. Our goal has always been to get armed, violent
felons into prison where they belong. Public safety demands no
All of these sections fit to a "T" what prosecutors should have
done in the cases of the alleged March 30 drive-by shooters who
randomly killed four kids and wounded five others. It's astounding
that U.S. attorneys haven't used the resources of the United States
District Court more aggressively to bring armed thugs to justice
under very forceful laws against armed, violent criminal
These are surgical-strike laws that do not affect the rights of
law-abiding citizens, but they do get violent criminals off the
streets and make our communities safer. Witness the concentrated
enforcement in Richmond, Va.--Project Exile--in the 1990s that
dramatically lowered crime rates and, in fact, caused criminals to
disarm themselves rather than face sure and swift justice for
illegal firearms possession and use.
With respect to federal firearm laws covering felonious
possession and use by a whole class of prohibited persons, NRA's
position has been abundantly clear.
It is a federal felony-a criminal act punishable by 10 years in
prison-for any convicted felon to possess any handgun, rifle or
shotgun. It is a federal felony for anyone to possess a stolen
firearm. It is a federal felony for anyone to give a firearm to a
juvenile for the purpose of committing a crime. It is a federal
felony for anyone to possess a firearm with the intention of
committing a crime. It is a federal felony for anyone to use a
firearm in the commission of a crime. It is a federal felony for
anyone to cross state lines with the intention to unlawfully obtain
a firearm or to commit a crime.
If one were to add up all of the penalties for gun crime
offenses by street criminals under existing federal law, total jail
time with consecutive sentences could add up to literally hundreds
of years in federal prison.
The Washington Post should be questioning federal prosecutors on
their refusal to use existing law to prosecute.With application of
federal laws against violent criminals and firearms, the streets
could be cleaned in a matter of months. This is action NRA has
demanded for years, but the Post has ignored or belittled for
The fact that prosecutors do not read and apply these simple
laws is itself criminal.