The U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday it has charged more than 14,200 defendants with firearms-related crimes during the 2020 fiscal year, despite the challenges of COVID 19.

U.S. Attorney Joe Kelly of Nebraska said the cases have been a department priority since November 2019 when Attorney General William P. Barr announced his commitment to investigating, prosecuting, and combatting gun crimes, as a critical part of the department’s anti-violent crime strategy.

These firearms-related charges are the result of the critical law enforcement partnership between United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, led by Acting Director Regina Lombardo, who has made firearms-related investigations a priority.

Kelly said of the more than 14,200 cases charged nationally, 145 cases have been brought by the district of Nebraska.

The U.S. Attorney’s office “will continue to vigorously pursue and hold accountable those criminals who use firearms to commit violent crimes, those who provide firearms for use in violent crimes, and those felons who cannot legally possess firearms,” he said.

Under federal law, it is illegal to possess a firearm if someone falls into one of nine prohibited categories including being a felon, illegal alien, or unlawful user of a controlled substance.

It is also unlawful to possess a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense or violent crime.

It is also illegal to purchase – or even try to illegally purchase – firearms if the buyer is a prohibited person or illegally purchasing a firearm on behalf of others. Lying on ATF Form 4473, which is used to lawfully purchase a firearm, is also a federal offense.

The department is committed to prosecuting firearms offenses as well as using all modern technologies available to law enforcement such as the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, known as NIBIN, to promote gun crime intelligence.

Keeping illegal firearms out of the hands of violent criminals will continue to be a priority of the Department of Justice and the department will use all appropriate, available means to keep the law abiding people of this country safe from gun crime.

For more information on the lawful purchasing of firearms, see: https://www.atf.gov/qa-category/atf-form-4473.

“The No. 1 priority of government is to keep its citizens safe,” said U.S. Attorney General Barr. “By preventing firearms from falling into the hands of individuals who are prohibited from having them, we can stop violent crime before it happens.”