BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Baltimore U.S. Attorney’s Office joined with regional and federal forces Friday to announce Project Guardian, an effort to stop the trafficking of guns and get them away from people who aim to use them for violence.

“The correlation between the availability and the use of illegal guns in violent crime is undeniable,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Jessie Liu.

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For the fifth straight year, Baltimore has reached 300 homicides. Many of those deaths have been caused by guns.

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Now, because of the aggressive pursuit of recent cases, officials know many of the guns in the hands of criminals are not legally owned.

“Those guns were trafficked across state lines into Maryland and D.C.,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Three of the firearms the man illegally purchased have already been recovered after being used in a number of violent crimes.”

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If a gun falls into the wrong hands and a crime occurs, the gunman might get caught, but now they are not the only one being punished.

“If you lie and buy a firearm for someone else, you will be prosecuted with a felony,” Terwilliger said. “If you lie and attempt to buy a firearm, known as lying and trying, you’ll be prosecuted for the attempt. If you are prohibited from possessing a firearm and do so, you will be prosecuted with a felony.”

Maryland U.S. Attorney Robert Hur said a 2019 crime case landed a local man 15 years in federal prison for doing just that.

“Terrell Elliott used Instagram to sell guns illegally, including to minors,” Hur said. “He knew he was selling guns to customers who were using them to commit robberies and drug dealing.”

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This initiative comes from a push from U.S. Attorney General William Barr to reduce gun violence by getting guns away from people who shouldn’t have them.

Rachael Cardin