U.S. Attorney Dee Benson has announced Utah's participation in a national, multiagency drive to get guns away from criminals.
The national program - called "Project Triggerlock" - is intended to let criminals know that government officials from President George Bush down to local county attorneys are serious about stopping violent crime, Benson said in a news conference Wednesday.Benson's conference was held in concert with similar news conferences in every state. By implementing Project Triggerlock, Bush is letting America know that gun control is part of his criminal justice agenda, Benson said.
Officials from the Utah Attorney General's office, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Salt Lake County Attorney's office joined Benson at the news conference, emphasizing the breadth of commitment to the project.
But despite the fanfare - which included a display of illegal weapons seized in the Salt Lake area - Project Triggerlock will make little difference to Utah criminals.
The project brings no new money, manpower or laws to shorten the country's war against violent crimes. Utah already aggressively prosecutes those who use weapons to commit drug offenses or violent crimes, Benson said.
Federal sentencing guidelines call for the imposition of a five-year, mandatory sentence on all those who used guns to traffic in drugs or commit violent crimes, he said.
Assistant Utah Attorney General Joe Tesch encouraged state prosecutors to refer gun crimes that meet the federal sentencing guidelines to federal courts where the crimes can be "strictly and harshly prosecuted."
State agencies may also ask the Legislature to pass gun laws similar to the stern federal law, he said.