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Laws Fail To Adequately Deal with Guns, Drugs, Violence

U. S. Attorney General Bill Barr has as his top priority attacking violent crime in our nation. Attorney General Barr has emphasized that the most significant way to address violent crime is through continued efforts to curb drug trafficking. The U. S. Attorney for Alaska has been and will continue his "multi-faceted" prosecution of drug cases.

In Alaska, federal, state and local law enforcement officers are working in cooperation to identify and investigate large-scale drug trafficking organizations. Our nation's drug problem took decades to develop. We must continue our focus to overcome and defeat Alaska's drug problem.

Law enforcement cooperation is necessary to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking operations. Our goal is to bring the leaders and all accomplices in drug trafficking to justice.

Federal laws allow seizure and forfeiture of drug traffickers' "illegally gained wealth." These forfeitures are funneled back into the local Alaska law enforcement agencies to support their enforcement efforts.

At the same time, through federal, state and local cooperation, we must remove "low-level drug dealers" and their mules and managers from the streets. Local drug dealers are doing business in virtually every Anchorage community. No social strata or race is safe from the fatal "drug epidemic" sweeping Alaska.

Alaska state laws are inadequate to address the problems of guns, drugs and violence. Project Triggerlock is a national program for the United States Department of Justice to expand federal prosecution of criminals who use firearms. Former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh initiated Project Triggerlock.

For a year, the U. S. Attorney and Alaska district attorneys have been working as a "team" to expand federal prosecution of armed criminals.

Under federal law and criminal sentencing guidelines, felons and career criminals are subject to the following penalties:

  • The armed career criminal is an offender with three prior qualifying convictions who possesses a firearm. The armed career criminal faces a mandatory minimum 15 years to life in prison without parole.
  • The career offender is a criminal with two prior qualifying convictions who uses a firearm to commit a crime of violence. The career offender faces a mandatory range of 51 months to 125 months in prison without parole.
  • The felon in possession is an offender with one felony conviction who possesses a firearm. The felon in possession faces up to 10 years in prison without parole.
  • The armed drug trafficker is an offender who uses or carries a firearm during a drug trafficking crime. The armed drug trafficker faces a mandatory five-year prison term without parole consecutive to the underlying offense.


The genesis of Project Triggerlock is Jim Reynolds, chief of the Terrorism and Violent Crime Section of the Department of Justice. This "priority program" is to get the most violent criminals with firearms off the streets. Project Triggerlock, with its foundation in cooperation between the U.S. Attorney and local district attorneys, is an expansion of Project Achilles of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms works closely with the Alaska State Troopers and local police throughout the state to target violent offenders and drug trafficking violations where firearms are present. The success of Project Triggerlock depends on the close cooperation of state and local law enforcement agencies working in a partnership with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and other federal investigative agencies, including the U. S. Attorney.

Project Triggerlock is very effective in handling violent criminal offenders since the federal system has three distinct advantages over the Alaska state criminal justice system:

  • Available mandatory minimum sentences without parole.
  • Pretrial detention which prevents the commission of crimes while on bail and the potential harassment of witnesses.
  • A prison system that continues to receive resources sufficient to allow serious and violent criminals be confined for their entire sentence.


The sentencing for career criminals is particularly effective. Career criminals who have been a persistent, long-term threat to communities and local law enforcement receive sentences of 15, 20 and 25 years under Project Triggerlock. Under the Alaska state system, jail time would be much more limited, even when drug trafficking is involved.

Local District Attorneys in Alaska working with the U. S. Attorney will continue to press forward with Project Triggerlock. This is a "team effort" to attack the most violent offenders in Alaska who are involved with firearms and drugs.

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