U.S. Attorneys Fight for Permission to Carry Firearms

The National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys (NAAUSA) wrote a letter to then-acting Attorney General (AG) Matthew Whitaker outlining the dangerous conditions Assistant Attorneys encounter in their line of work. The letter calls for legal protections allowing AUSAs to carry firearms within their federal facilities.

NAAUSA President Lawrence Leiser explains, “Threats against Assistant United States Attorneys are real. Assistant United States Attorneys have been murdered, assaulted, and threatened. Sometimes the threats are direct; other times the threats are subtle. Such threats exist in both large and small communities. Indeed, in many smaller communities, the threats and potential dangers are even more acute because it is difficult for attorneys to remain anonymous.”

Leiser also notes that many satellite or smaller U.S. Attorney’s Offices lack direct and/or present security. This deficiency causes many AUSAs to be in direct contact with members of the public coming in to make complaints, some of whom are dangerous.

In these satellite offices, AUSAs also have unsupervised contact, often after hours, with criminal defendants who are meeting with the Federal Public Defender, Pretrial Services, or the U.S. Probation Office. These criminal defendants are known to loiter in unguarded parking lots near AUSA vehicles, according to the letter.

To offer AUSAs the chance to protect themselves from these possible threats, the NAAUSA proposes lifting the Department of Justice policy that prevents employees who are not deputized from carrying a firearm into a federal facility.

The letter explains, “Department of Justice policy should be modified to permit Assistant U.S. Attorneys, who are qualified to carry firearms under their respective state’s law, to carry certain firearms (i.e., pistols or revolvers) into their U.S. Attorney’s Office. Once inside the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the firearm should be stored in a gun locker until the attorney leaves on break and/or at the conclusion of the business day.”

Leiser requests the U.S. Attorney’s Office provide gun locker storage, as they do for federal agents and officers. Until such lockers are available, Leiser request AUSA’s be allowed to store firearms in a Transportation Security Administration approved gun container in their offices.

The NAAUSA also notes that Department of Justice policy should be modified to expand the deputation of AUSAs to those in satellite offices, smaller communities, and, particularly, in offices where there is no dedicated on-site security. Leiser explains that these individuals should be able to seek deputation without the need to show that there has been a threat made or posed to the attorney directly.

The issue of AUSA safety has been a consistent concern of the NAAUSA.

The NAAUSA has lobbied Congress and the Department of Justice continually for protections for AUSAs similar to those for federal law enforcement, such as secure parking lots.

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