Over the past few months Seattle has been at the center of far too much gun-related violence. On top of Ian Stawicki's May 30 shooting spree that led to the death of five Seattle-area residents, the city has seen 21 homicides this year (one more than the city had throughout all of 2011).
This morning federal and local officials, and politicians including Mayor Mike McGinn, held a joint press conference at the Federal Courthouse in Seattle concerning gun violence in the city . During the announcement federal and county officials made it clear that, moving forward more people will be charged in federal court for weapons crimes as a means to hopefully reduce gun violence in the city.
According to Seattle U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan and King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, whom were both part of this morning's announcement, the point of increasing the number of cases prosecuted on the federal level is ensure those convicted of gun-related offenses face longer time in federal prison via federal prosecution.
In federal court, for example, penalties that defendants could face include 10 years for being a felon with a gun, as well as a five-year mandatory minimum for bringing a gun to a drug deal. These penalties are stricter than ones thrown down at the county level.
While most local and state cases are reviewed in local and state courts, the U.S. Department of Justice's Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) program allows the U.S. Attorney's Office to review state cases for federal prosecution. While up until recently only the worst state cases have been tried at the federal level, this morning's announcement threatened a change to that tendency.
As a piece by Mike Carter of the Seattle Times notes:
Durkan noted that her office prosecuted 40 individuals last year on gun-related charges, a number she expects to increase this year with the new push to increase the number of defendants who face federal charges.
Also during the announcement Satterberg and others discussed creating legislation to increase penalties for juveniles involved in gun crimes, and the Seattle Police Department noted they have been working to reduce gun-related violence by taking guns off the streets. According to SPD Deputy Chief of Operations Nicholas Metz, SPD forces recovered 361 guns this year. Metz said many of these weapons were came from the hands of people who were not legally allowed to posses them.
Today's announcement comes as a prequel to tonight's "Public Safety: A Community Conversation," event at Town Hall Seattle. The discussion, which includes McGinn along with Seattle Police Chief John Diaz, City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, and others, is designed to create discourse between members of the community and key city officials on how to limit the amount of violence in the area.
The forum will begin at 7:30 p.m. this evening. The event will be broadcast by the Seattle Channel and can be followed online through Twitter under the hashtag #safeseattle.