Congress has eliminated direct funding of a Justice Department program that has been the centerpiece of the Bush administration’s efforts to prosecute black-market gun crimes, the New York Times reports. The new federal appropriations measure cut federal grants to local and state law enforcement agencies in investigating and prosecuting crimes committed with guns.
The administration had sought $45 million for local grants under the gun prosecution program, Project Safe Neighborhoods. That would have represented a sharp increase in grants for a program that President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft have hailed as a critical way to crack down on gun trafficking and gun-related crimes. In passing a $388 billion spending bill on Nov. 20, Congress killed the direct money sought for the program. A related program to track and intercept illegal purchases of guns by youngsters, for which the administration sought an additional $106 million, also received nothing in the final spending package, although the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which administers it, received an overall increase of $20 million. The immediate effects of the cutback on gun investigations and prosecutions is unclear. Financing for other antigun programs related to Safe Neighborhoods remain intact at $200 million; administration officials said they would try to find money from elsewhere to offset the gap that Congress left.