Why Pass New Laws If You Won’t Enforce Existing Ones?

Jim Baker, the NRA-ILA Director of Federal Affairs, represented the NRA at the meeting last week with Vice-President Joe Biden and his task force. During that meeting, Baker emphasized the need to enforce existing gun laws. One of the items he mentioned was the low prosecution rate for falsifying answers on the ATF Form 4473.

Biden’s response?

“And to your point, Mr. Baker, regarding the lack of prosecutions on
lying on Form 4473s, we simply don’t have the time or manpower to
prosecute everybody who lies on a form, that checks a wrong box, that
answers a question inaccurately.”

The Daily Caller article summarized the lack of prosecutions:

In 2010, prosecutors considered just 22 cases of information falsification, according to a 2012 report to the Department of Justice by the Regional Justice Information Service. Forty additional background-check cases ended up before prosecutors for reasons related to unlawful gun possession.

In all, prosecutors pursued just 44 of those 62 cases. More than 72,600 applications were denied on the basis of a background check.

Bear in mind that each false answer on a Form 4473 carries a penalty of up to 10 years in Federal prison.

It isn’t just falsifications of Form 4473 that the Obama Administration seems not want to prosecute. In the table below, the number of firearms cases files and the number of convictions in US District Court is summarized by fiscal year for the period FY 2001 to FY 2010. A Federal fiscal year begins on October 1st of the preceding year. Thus, FY 2001 began on October 1, 2000. FY 2010 is the latest year in which statistics are available.

FY
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
Cases Filed
5,875
7,412
9,111
9,403
9,008
8,472
8,103
7,891
7,650
7,089
Convictions
4,925
5,563
6,786
7,889
8,690
8,706
8,111
7,886
7,941
7,642
Federal Firearms
Offenses, Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, SUNY-Albany School of
Criminal Justice

The number of  cases brought involving violations of Federal firearms laws is currently at the lowest level since FY 2001. That year the responsibility was part Clinton and part Bush. It is obvious that US Attorneys in the Bush Administration took violation of firearms law more seriously than do the US Attorneys in the Obama Administration. Comparing the high year of prosecutions under Bush – FY 2004 – with the first full year under Obama – FY 2010 – prosecutions have dropped by 33%. This is for all firearms prosecutions which includes felon in possession among other things.

Jim Baker points out the disconnect between pushing new firearms laws when you don’t prosecute existing laws.


“We think it is problematic when the administration takes lightly the prosecutions under existing gun laws and yet does not seem to have a problem promoting a whole host of other gun laws,” Baker told TheDC.

“If we are not going to enforce the laws that are on the books, it not only engenders disrespect for the law but it makes law-abiding gun owners wonder why we are going through this exercise we are going through now,” he added.

With an approximately 20,000 firearms laws already on the books in the United States, one more law passed won’t stop criminals. Some of the laws being promoted by the Obama Administration and the gun control forces in Congress would, however, make it harder for the average, law-abiding citizen to protect him or herself from the criminal class.

Is that what we really want criminal law to do? The answer is obviously a resounding no.


2 thoughts on “Why Pass New Laws If You Won’t Enforce Existing Ones?”

  1. I'm not sure I'd want them to get aggressive. Federal law usually doesn't distinguish between accidental and intentional error. Transpose numbers, go to jail for 10 years? I've seen cases where aggressive DoJ prosecutors jail people for harmless mistakes. Red meat for a prosecutor who needs a quick pick-me-up to his success record and doesn't care about ethics.

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