AG Sessions pushes to punish those who lie to buy guns

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions urged federal prosecutors Monday to bring criminal charges against people who falsely claim they're legally entitled to buy a gun, one of a series of steps the Justice Department is taking to help improve school safety.

"No child should have to fear going to school or walking the streets of their neighborhood," Sessions said.

While it's a federal crime to lie on the form a buyer submits to purchase a gun, the offense seldom results in arrests or charges. Sessions said he is urging the nation's U.S. attorneys to "swiftly and aggressively" prosecute people who falsely declare that they are free of disqualifying factors.

Prosecutions of what is known as the crime of "lie and try" in the past have been rare, averaging about 30 cases a year, because they are difficult to prove and considered low priorities. But Sessions is urging U.S. attorneys to bring charges when would-be buyers pose a risk of violence.

Related: Australia’s mandatory gun buyback inspires U.S. activists, but few lawmakers

Hoping to improve the amount of data in the gun background check database, Sessions also said he has directed the FBI to identify states and localities that are lax in reporting criminal history and mental health records. While reporting such information is voluntary, Justice Department officials said Sessions would use the FBI's findings to encourage states to do better.

He said the COPS program that provides grant money for hiring more police officers will give priority to applicants seeking to hire more school resource officers — law enforcement officers present in schools. And the Justice Department will use other grant programs to give firearms and emergency response training to teachers and school administrators.

On Saturday, the Justice Department proposed a federal regulation that would ban the manufacture, sale and possession of bump stocks — devices that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire rapidly like machine guns. The proposed rule will soon be published to solicit public comment.

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Protests against gun violence following Florida school shooting
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Protests against gun violence following Florida school shooting
Students who walked out of their Montgomery County, Maryland, schools protest against gun violence in front of the White House in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Protestors rally outside the Capitol urging Florida lawmakers to reform gun laws, in the wake of last week's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Tallahassee, Florida, U.S., February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Colin Hackley TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Students from South Plantation High School carrying placards and shouting slogans walk on the street during a protest in support of the gun control, following a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Plantation, Florida, February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL, PARKLAND, FLORIDA. 02/25/2018 In the background, the school building, now slated to be demolished, where 17 children and teachers were killed by lone gunman Nikolas Cruz. On February 14, 2018, a former school Stoneman Douglas student Nikolas Cruz entered the school at 2.30pm and proceeded to kill 3 teachers and 14 school children in a 7 minute shooting spree. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is located in Parkland, Florida, in the Miami metropolitan area. It is a part of the Broward County Public School district, and it is the only public high school in Parkland. (Photo by Giles Clarke/Getty Images)
Students from South Plantation High School carrying placards and shouting slogans walk on the street during a protest in support of the gun control, following a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Plantation, Florida, February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Melissa Conrad-Freed, former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and Mark Forst, mourn close to the fence of Western High School during a protest in support of the gun control, in Davie, Florida, February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
After walking out of class with hundreds of her fellow students at Walt Whitman High School in Montgomery County, Maryland, Gwen Parks holds up her hands during a protest against gun violence in front of the White House in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Students from South Plantation High School carrying placards and shouting slogans walk on the street during a protest in support of the gun control, following a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Plantation, Florida, February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Students from South Plantation High School carrying placards and shouting slogans walk on the street during a protest in support of the gun control, following a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Plantation, Florida, February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
A protester holds a sign at a Call To Action Against Gun Violence rally by the Interfaith Justice League and others in Delray Beach, Florida, U.S. February 19, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Students who walked out of their classes at Montgomery County, Maryland schools, protest against gun violence in front of the White House in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Students who walked out of their Montgomery County, Maryland, schools protest against gun violence in front of the White House in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Baltimore students outside City Hall stage a #gunsdowngradesup school walkout on Tuesday, March 6, 2018 to protest gun violence in schools and the city. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
Students from South Plantation High School carrying placards and shouting slogans walk on the street during a protest in support of the gun control, following a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Plantation, Florida, February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
SOMERVILLE, MA - FEBRUARY 28: Senior Gabriel Kafka-Gibbons, left, and junior Seweryn Brzezinski, center, sit on the sidewalk during a student walkout at Somerville High School in Somerville, MA on Feb. 28, 2018. Some 200 Somerville High School students walked out at 8:17 a.m. to demand an end to gun-related violence in the wake of the attack in a Florida high school that left 17 people dead. The students exited the school as scheduled, at a time that reflects the number of staffers and students murdered Feb. 14 at a Parkland, FL, school, and then gathered outside as part of a 17-minute long silent protest. (Photo by Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2018 -- Students from Washington local high schools demonstrate for stricter gun control outside the White House in Washington D.C., the United States, on Feb. 21, 2018. U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he has recommended that 'bump stocks', devices that enable semi-automatic weapons to fire hundreds of rounds per minute, be banned, while debates on gun rights continue across the country. (Xinhua/Ting Shen via Getty Images)
MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL, PARKLAND, FLORIDA. 02/25/2018 A young school child holds a sign 'Protect Children NOT Guns' at Stoneman Douglas High School. On February 14, 2018, a former school Stoneman Douglas student Nikolas Cruz entered the school at 2.30pm and proceeded to kill 3 teachers and 14 school children in a 7 minute shooting spree. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is located in Parkland, Florida, in the Miami metropolitan area. It is a part of the Broward County Public School district, and it is the only public high school in Parkland. Photo by Giles Clarke/Getty Images
Rabbi Jack Romberg speaks at a rally during which several thousand protestors urge Florida lawmakers to reform gun laws outside the Capitol, in the wake of last week's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Tallahassee, Florida, U.S., February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Colin Hackley
Protestors rally outside the Capitol urging Florida lawmakers to reform gun laws, in the wake of last week's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Tallahassee, Florida, U.S., February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Colin Hackley
Protestors rally outside the Capitol urging Florida lawmakers to reform gun laws, in the wake of last week's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Tallahassee, Florida, U.S., February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Colin Hackley
Protestors rally outside the Capitol urging Florida lawmakers to reform gun laws, in the wake of last week's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Tallahassee, Florida, U.S., February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Colin Hackley
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