On Wednesday we found out that under former President Barack Obama, the Department of Justice directed the FBI to drop more than 500,000 names of fugitives with outstanding arrest warrants from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. This came from the current FBI deputy director David Bowdich, who testified on Wednesday.
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about law enforcement’s faulty response to Parkland, Florida shooter Nikolas Cruz, California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Bowdich about the removal.
“That was a decision that was made under the previous administration,” Bowdich testified. “It was the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel that reviewed the law and believed that it needed to be interpreted so that if someone was a fugitive in a state, there had to be indications that they had crossed state lines. Otherwise they were not known to be a fugitive under the law and the way it was interpreted.”
Fugitives from justice are barred from buying a firearm under federal law. But the exact definition of a fugitive from justice has been a strung out debate between the Department of Justice and the ATF.
According to a report that was done by The Washington Post, the FBI considered anyone who has an outstanding arrest warrant to be a fugitive. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives defines a fugitive as someone who has an outstanding arrest warrant and has crossed state lines.
At the end of former President Barack Obama’s final term, the argument between the agencies came to a end. The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel ended up siding with the ATF’s interpretation of what a fugitive is.
Under President Donald Trump, the DOJ defined a fugitive as a person who went to another state to dodge criminal prosecution or evade giving testimony in criminal court, and implemented the Office of Legal Counsel’s decision. This decision meant that around half a million fugitives were removed from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Current President Donald Trumps Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recently announced that the Justice Department will “aggressively” be pursing anyone who is caught lying on their background check when purchasing a firearm.
Click here for the full clip of David Bowdichs testimony
Featured photo via Washington Post