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Local, Federal Prosecutors Cracking Down On Domestic Abusers With Guns

U.S. Attorney Benjamin C. Glassman speaks during a news conference, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, in Cincinnati.
John Minchillo
Associated Press
U.S. Attorney Benjamin C. Glassman speaks during a news conference, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, in Cincinnati.

The Columbus City Attorney and U.S. Attorney announced three indictments Tuesday as part of a new effort to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.

Under Columbus and federal law, it’s illegal for people convicted of domestic violence offenses to possess a firearm or ammunition.

City Attorney Zach Klein explains a new initiative will help push some of those cases to federal court where prosecutors can seek far stiffer penalties.

“This partnership will help law enforcement crack down on abusers with weapons,” Klein explains. “And that’s what this is about—it’s not about guns. It’s about violent people who possess guns.”

Klein and U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman announced the indictments at a press conference Tuesday. One of the suspects is in custody, and arrest warrants have been issued for two other people.

The initiative pairs prosecutors from Klein and Glassman's offices to pursue cases, as well as a task force bringing together Columbus Police and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives to investigate offenses. Glassman says that by working together, their offices can make a greater impact than they might operating independently.

“The federal penalty, as I mentioned, is up to 10 years in federal prison, so take their knowledge about who the worst of the worst are, and bring those folks to federal prosecution, we can make sure that we are multiplying our forces," Klein says.

The local ordinance carries a six month minimum jail term, but a federal conviction could mean up to 10 years behind bars. State law doesn’t carry the same prohibitions on possession. 

“It fills in a gap between federal law and state law,” Klein says. “And even with this partnership and helping identify the worst of the worst offenders with the U.S. Attorney’s office, we will continue to vigorously prosecute in my office those who are in violation of the weapons under disability ordinance.”

Federal prosecutions are limited to cases where the attorney can show an “interstate nexus.” In the three cases introduced Tuesday, that means demonstrating the ammunition or the firearm crossed state lines because it didn’t originate in Ohio.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.