Barbara Hollingsworth of CNS News reports that Senator Richard Shelby has sent a letter to Loretta Lynch criticizing the Obama administration for commuting the sentences of 33 criminals convicted of firearm-related offenses. “By my count, the President has commuted the sentences of over 200 of these ‘non-violent’ federal inmates, of which 33 were convicted of firearm-related offenses,” Shelby wrote. He also pointed to the hypocrisy of commuting the sentences of firearms offenders while pushing for gun control.
As we noted here, Obama’s latest set of commutations puts a number of gun offenders back on the streets. Indeed, according to Shelby, 12 of the 61 recipients of Obama’s leniency were convicted of one, if not more, firearm-related offenses. These include:
Seven convictions of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime;
four convictions of possession of a firearm by a felon; and
two convictions of use of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.
At a hearing in January of this year, Shelby quizzed Lynch about this issue. As Shelby reminds Lynch:
I. . .asked you how the President can say he is ‘committed to using every tool at the Administration’s disposal to reduce gun violence’ when his own Administration is not even following through with the sentences of criminals with firearm-related convictions.
At the time, you said that you were not aware of the particular sentence commutations involving firearm-related convictions, but that you would look into these cases. We have yet to hear back from you or the Department [of Justice] about these or any other questions from the hearing, which were due at the end of February.
Evidently, Lynch has no good answer to the question Shelby posed.
In his letter, Shelby said that his subcommittee (on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies) will not approve any increased funding for the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney, which screens inmates’ applications for clemency before they are submitted to the president. He explained:
I have no confidence in the ability of the Office of the Pardon Attorney to properly screen requests for executive clemency or to effectively convey any recommendations throughout the Administration. I want to do everything I can to keep our communities safer, and that includes keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, the mentally ill, and violent offenders.
Right now, I am unsure if the Administration shares this goal.
I suspect that Team Obama does share the goal in theory, but views it as less important than its leniency for criminals project.