D.C. leaders blame illegal guns for the spike, and following several murders in a span of just days — including the death of an 11-year-old boy — the mayor, chief of police and a top federal prosecutor promised to go after guns from Virginia being sold illegally in the District.
Mayor Muriel Bowser and Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham have been steadfast that the best way to stop the growing homicide rate is to stop the guns from coming into D.C. The majority of those illegal guns come from one state.
“We think intense focus on Virginia is going to yield the most,” Bowser said.
G. Zachary Terwilliger, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said his office will help track down those who buy guns legally in Virginia but sell them illegally to people in D.C.
“We’re going to use science to get after this and hopefully make it extremely hard for individuals to get guns,” he said.
Five months ago, Bowser and Newsham stood with U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Jessie Liu to announce a plan to prosecute felony possession cases in federal court. So far this year, there have been almost 200 arrests for felony possession of a gun. Liu said only 65 have been prosecuted in federal court.
Of the more than 600 gun arrests this year, Liu could not say how many have been prosecuted.
Last week, Newsham said the consequences for being arrested with a gun were not enough to stop the violence.
In 2016, former Police Chief Cathy Lanier blasted the District’s criminal justice system, calling it beyond broken, and Bowser agreed, saying federal prosecutors were unaccountable.
Bowser stepped back from those remarks Thursday.
“We have been very aggressive about our partnership and focusing on the things that are going to keep the District safer,” she said.
While gun violence has increased this year, over all violent crime in D.C. is down.