Forty-Six Prosecutors Across America Urge President Biden and Vice President Harris to Take Action on Gun Violence

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Amidst a surge in shootings in urban centers across the nation and a pandemic-fueled increase in suicides and gun sales – and nearly a month after the violence at the nation’s Capitol – Prosecutors Against Gun Violence (PAGV), the non-partisan coalition of 46 prosecutors serving over 60 million people in 24 states, submitted comprehensive recommendations to President Biden and Vice President Harris on how the Administration should confront the “uniquely American” crisis of gun violence. The four-part blueprint, containing a broad range of commonsense gun safety and violence prevention measures, urges executive and congressional action to make the country safer.

“PAGV will vigorously support efforts by your administration to reduce gun violence, and our members stand ready to assist in developing and implementing gun violence prevention policies and laws,” the letter states.

“The Biden/Harris Administration has an historic opportunity to tackle this emergency,” said PAGV co-founder and co-chair, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer. “Steps that build on the consensus to keep guns away from criminals, kids and people in the throes of mental health crises would go a long way toward protecting our nation’s families.”

“The pandemic is changing crime patterns before our eyes,” said PAGV co-founder and co-chair, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. “Around the country, there’s been a surge in gun purchases and concern about unreported, or under-reported, crimes committed at home. As the crisis of gun violence grows more urgent by the day, our coalition of prosecutors around the country stands ready to confront gun violence in the jurisdictions we serve, but we need the help of the executive branch and congress.”

Among the changes recommended by PAGV:

1.    Streamlining the response to the gun violence crisis with a tightly coordinated federal strategy led by a nationally recognized expert with the input of key federal agencies.

2.    Bolstering the background check system to more effectively prevent people prohibited from buying guns from getting them, including closing the gun show and Charleston loopholes and holding online intermediaries to account for facilitating criminal firearm sales.

3.    Investing financially to end gun violence, including funding evidence-based prevention and intervention programs and providing grants to states and local municipalities to encourage the passage of strong red-flag laws so that guns can more easily be removed from individuals at risk of harming themselves or others.

4.    Ending the proliferation of ghost guns, which can be made with 3D printers or assembled from kits purchased online.

5.    Leading a national safe gun storage campaign, to protect children at home, reduce teen suicides and decrease school shootings.

Separately today, PAGV released a first-of-its-kind report, Mass Shooting Resource Guide For Prosecutors: How to Prevent, Protect, and Prosecute. In late 2019, PAGV gathered for a daylong summit entitled, The New Norm: Mass Shootings in America. PAGV partnered with the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and, with their help, drafted this report.

The resource guide discusses the ways in which prosecutors can, on a micro level, work to prevent mass shootings. Well in advance of a potential threat, mass shooting response teams can be assembled, which may be comprised of state and local prosecutors, local law enforcement, communities of faith and clergy, social workers, psychologists, victim service organizations, emergency services, and national non-profits, among others. Once those key players have been identified, prosecutors can help spearhead community-based threat assessment teams by opening the lines of communication between parties and focusing on mitigating the risk at public events by assisting in the planning stages. Recognizing the powerful role social media platforms may play in a mass shooting and leveraging the information found on such websites, the report advises that prosecutors can partner with organizations like The Southern Poverty Law Center and the ADL’s (Anti-Defamation League) Center on Extremism to bolster enforcement and investigative efforts. The report discusses how prosecutors can prevent these tragedies by prosecuting threats of mass shootings before they are actualized.

Next, the report provides lessons for what to do in the event of a mass shooting. In that regard, it discusses charging decisions for instances when the shooter lives and the unique challenges attendant to charging a mass shooting. Those challenges include balancing the need to bring justice with respect to each victim, wounded and unwounded, and the potential for jury fatigue and untenably lengthy trials. The report also discusses the need to continue the investigation and make efforts to ameliorate the confusion and sensationalism that the media may create. The report also discusses how regardless of whether the shooter lives, prosecutors will likely be called upon to assist with victim services, as they often have robust victim service programs and the community looks to them for support. To help with that challenge, the report provides links to replicable Family Assistance Center models. 

Finally, the report discusses how prosecutors can, on a macro level, work to mitigate the risk of these tragedies by advocating specific legislation and policy. Such legislation includes bills to create stronger background checks, close the “boyfriend loophole,” give a mechanism to seek extreme risk protection orders, prohibit “ghost guns” and modified weapons, increase the strength of accountability laws, and provide funding for research.

While it is not feasible to prevent all mass shootings, this resource guide aims to help the nation’s prosecutors prepare for, prevent, and respond to mass shootings within their diverse jurisdictions around the country.   

PAGV is an independent coalition of prosecutors from diverse jurisdictions throughout the United States, working toward solutions to end gun violence. The group brings together prosecutors to discuss policies, legislation, and strategies to help prevent and confront gun violence in their jurisdictions. Since 2014, PAGV has held a dozen national forums on a range of topics, from gun crimes committed in the home, to safe storage, to illegal firearms trafficking, to mass shootings. PAGV has issued a nationwide blueprint on removing guns from domestic abusers, and a resource guide on preventing mass shootings and prosecuting mass shooters. The organization has also filed amicus briefs in several important cases, including those pertaining to ghost guns and gun licensing.