The U.S. attorney’s office in Kansas has filed so many firearms cases that the Midwestern farm state ranked third last year among the 93 judicial districts nationwide in the numbers of gun prosecutions, Justice Department figures show.
Only Puerto Rico and the Western District of Texas had more federal gun prosecutions than Kansas in the fiscal year ending September 2012.
Kansas was first in the nation in gun prosecutions in 2011, but fell to third place in 2012 despite prosecutors filing even more cases.
U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom credits the growing number of gun prosecutions in the state to his office urging local law enforcement agencies to refer to federal prosecutors cases of convicted felons who are unlawfully in possession of firearms — even when they do not have enough evidence to pursue other state charges.
Grissom told the Wichita Pachyderm Club on Friday that he told the local agencies, “If they are felons and you can pull them over and they are armed, give them to us and we will cut them out of your community. You can have a huge impact on the crime rate.”
Federal prosecutors in Kansas filed gun-related charges against 447 people last year, up nearly 85 percent from the average of the four previous years. Firearms prosecutions nationwide remained relatively flat during that time, with 11,728 defendants charged last year.
An undercover operation aimed at taking guns away from convicted felons using a bogus pawn shop in Wichita led to federal charges against more than 50 people in 2011. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives seized about 240 firearms, including stolen weapons, guns with serial numbers obliterated, sawed off shotguns and guns with silencers.
Grissom’s tough-on-crime talk got a friendly reception from his Republican audience.
“I never hunted pheasant with a silencer,” Grissom said, eliciting laughter from his listeners. “That is the kind of guns we were able to bring in.”
Fighting gun violence and protecting the safety of law enforcement officers are among Justice Department priorities, he said.
Most of the Kansas cases involve felons with firearms or firearms used in the commission of other crimes such as drug trafficking.
But a massive firearms trafficking case that Grissom didn’t talk about at the presentation highlights the far-reaching reach of gun investigations in Kansas.
In that case, 12 people are charged with conspiracy to buy firearms at gun shows in Kansas and Oklahoma and to then smuggle the weapons to Mexico, Nicaragua and Guatemala. Some of the weapons also were also allegedly unlawfully sold to convicted felons and illegal immigrants, according to court documents.