Mayor Rybak, U.S. Attorney, County Attorney Launch Initiative to Combat Gun Violence
Backed by community and faith leaders, prosecutors announce full cooperation around "Project Minneapolis Exile" to seek toughest possible penalties for use of or traffic in illegal guns
July 22, 2010 (MINNEAPOLIS) — Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak joined United States Attorney B. Todd Jones and Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman today to announce the seamless cooperation of federal and county prosecutors in holding fully accountable those who commit violence with illegal guns, especially felons and other repeat offenders, or who traffic in illegal guns. They announced that federal and state prosecutors are working together closely to evaluate every gun case that is charged in Hennepin County to determine whether to prosecute them in federal or state courts.
The mayor and prosecutors were joined by Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan, B. J. Zapor of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and grassroots community faith and violence-prevention leaders at an event held at the "Phoenix Rising" sculpture — itself crafted of melted-down firearms — in front of the Hennepin County Government Center.
"Though Minneapolis has become remarkably safer overall in the past several years, this year we are experiencing intolerable levels of gun violence. We are here today to send a strong, clear message that we will not tolerate it. If you commit a crime with an illegal gun, you will feel the consequences," Mayor Rybak said.
Although murders in Minneapolis have spiked this year over last year’s 27-year low, overall, violent crime is up 3% over the same period last year, and remains down 14% over the same period two years ago. Gun seizures are up 32% over this time last year.
United States Attorney B. Todd Jones said that his office is devoting the "full measure of all our resources to seeking the toughest possible penalties" for felons and other repeat offenders who use illegal guns in committing crimes.
Jones continued, "We are targeting the worst of the worst, the folks who don’t care, and we’re giving them fair warning: if you harm the community or an innocent person as a result of your selfishness, you will feel the full force of the law. We will seek the toughest possible penalties, whether those are in federal courts or state courts."
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman echoed this message, saying, ""We are beyond tired when it comes to gun violence. The message is clear — if you're carrying a gun illegally, you're going to do time."
In a number of instances, federal minimum sentences for crimes committed with illegal guns, especially those committed by convicted felons or repeat offenders, are stronger than those provided for in state statute. Jones called the initiative "Project Minneapolis Exile," a reference to federal anti-gun-violence initiatives in other states.
Freeman confirmed that his prosecutors and federal prosecutors hold weekly meetings to review gun cases, and added, "There is seamless cooperation between my office and the U.S. Attorney’s office."
"We are in absolute sync with County Attorney Freeman’s office," Jones confirmed.
B. J. Zapor of ATF added that federal authorities will be engaged in enhanced firearms tracking and will prosecute not only those who commit crimes with illegal guns, but those who traffic in illegal guns or engage in "straw sales" (that is, buy a gun on behalf a person without a legal right to possess one).
Mayor Rybak stressed the importance of this initiative, saying that every time a violent crime is committed with a gun, "The first thing the community should ask is, ‘Where are the guns coming from?’"
Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan said, "Some people in our community have lost the sense of fear that they should feel when they carry illegal guns or commit crimes with them, and we intend to change that."
Mayor Rybak added, "We are not sending federal officials into neighborhoods indiscriminately. We are targeting the worst offenders and giving them fair warning that when they commit gun crimes, they will feel uncomfortable."
Officials were flanked by faith, community and business leaders. Bishop Richard D. Howell of Shiloh Temple International Ministries spoke for faith leaders in Minneapolis, and Mary Johnson of Two Mothers Two Dads spoke on behalf of crime victims. Both called for gun violence to come to an end and for community leaders, elected officials, faith leaders and law enforcement to unite around healing the community and providing a meaningful path for reentry for ex-offenders.
Published Jul. 22, 2010