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U.S. Attorney’s Office, advocates talk efforts to get guns out of hands of domestic abusers

October 3, 2018

U.S. Attorney’s Office, advocates talk efforts to get guns out of hands of domestic abusers

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said Tuesday that his office has started bringing federal firearms charges against men with convictions for domestic violence and active restraining orders obtained by their partners.

Herdman that the majority of the firearms charges his office has brought involve people with prior felony convictions. However, he said his office will screen more cases to try and bring more federal charges against people who committed domestic violence, including those with misdemeanor convictions.

He said his office spoke to local police, prosecutors, judges and advocates to tell them of his willingness to bring the cases. Sentencing guidelines make it more likely for a federal judge to send an offender to prison for a firearms violation than a person facing a similar charge in state court, Herdman said.

“For years, domestic violence was seen as a problem to be dealt with most successfully in state courts, in municipal courts,” Herdman said during the news conference held at the Cleveland Domestic Violence & Child Advocacy Center. “I saw an opportunity for us to bring federal enforcement tools to this fight.”

Appearing with Herdman at the news conference were Advocacy center CEO Melissa Graves, Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association President Jeff Follmer and Kyle Walton, an Independence-based assistant special agent of charge with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives.

While Herdman declined to say how many specific cases his office is pulling from state and local courts, he said there are many, and that his office would identify cases where people with domestic violence convictions are most likely to use a gun.

He said they are beginning to see results. His office highlighted six cases in a news release in which men with domestic violence convictions or active restraining orders sought or possessed a gun. Three of those men have misdemeanor domestic violence convictions.

This included Ed Kennerly, a Cleveland man whom officials say tried to buy a 12-gauge shotgun from a store in Eastlake last year. Kennerly lied on paperwork to try to get the shotgun, including saying he didn’t have an active restraining order against him and that he didn’t have a pending felony indictment for a domestic violence case, according to prosecutors

Kennerly did not get the shotgun, authorities say.

The news conference was held to note that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Graves said 116 people died as a result of violence involving intimate partners, and 85 percent of those cases involved guns, she said.

“What research is showing about these homicides is that in domestic violence situations, the presence of a gun makes it five times more likely that that victim is going to be killed,” Graves said.

Herdman said the new push is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a Justice Department program that dates back to 2001 that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has highlighted as a way to reduce violent crime.

The U.S. attorney said his office have brought more firearms and violent crime charges in 2018 than in the previous year, an unsurprising number given Sessions’ tough-on-crime mentality straight from the War on Drugs of the 1980s and 1990s.

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