Representative John Ratcliffe (R., Texas) questioned his Democratic colleagues’ commitment to preventing gun violence on Friday, citing their lack of questions pertaining to the issue during acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker’s appearance before the House Judiciary Committee.
“Earlier this week my colleagues on the other side of the aisle indicated they had a great desire to reduce gun violence in this country. In fact we had an eight-hour hearing with six witnesses that talked about the need to reduce gun violence in this country,” Ratcliffe said.
“We started this hearing at 9:30 this morning. It’s now 12:30 in the afternoon, and I haven’t seen you [Whitaker] field a single question from the other side of the aisle about any of the enforcement priorities of the Department of Justice,” he continued. “Despite the fact that you are the head of an organization that has a greater ability to impact and reduce gun violence than anyone or anything in the country.”
Prior to Ratcliffe’s raising the issue of gun-violence prevention, Whitaker faced questions from Republicans and Democrats alike that related almost exclusively to his oversight of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing Russia investigation.
Ratfcliffe went on to ask specifically about a program known as “Project Safe Neighborhoods,” which, he said, “took guns out of the hands of criminal offenders,” and was shut down by the Obama administration despite a proven record of success before being reinstated by the Trump administration.
“In 2017, Attorney General Sessions announced the expansion of Project Safe Neighborhoods, which encourages U.S. attorneys’ offices to work specifically with their unique communities to develop a customized crime reduction strategy,” Whitaker said. “One study showed that when you and I were doing PSN it reduced crime overall by 4.1 percent and with case studies showing up to 42 percent reduction in violent crime.”
Whitaker then echoed Ratcliffe’s criticism of other lawmakers’ focus on the Mueller investigation to the exclusion of other Department of Justice operations.
“Congressman I appreciate your tone. This oversight hearing is not a hearing about the things we have been talking about,” he said. “The chairman sent me a letter specifically outlining things he wanted to talk about and I don’t feel like we’ve talked about many of those things so I’m glad that you’ve asked about the Department of Justice efforts at reducing gun violence.”