Continued from page 1

“We’ve suffered an attrition of 20 attorneys since 2012, and we’ve only gotten over the budget hurdle this year and have been beginning to hire them back,” Mr. Samborn said. “Some say you can do more with less, then it’s the same with less, but after a point in time, you simply can’t do as much with less.”

Also, unlike Alabama, which has lighter gun laws than the federal government, Illinois has some of the strictest gun laws nationwide, and many times criminals are better prosecuted under state jurisdictions than federal, Mr. Samborn explained.

Ideology and interests

The divergent approaches of Mobile and Chicago highlight an often-overlooked truism in federal law enforcement: that the ideology and parochial interests of a local U.S. attorney often can trump the promises and agenda of their bosses back in Washington.

President Obama vowed after the Newtown and Aurora mass shootings to step up in enforcement of the nation’s gun laws, but in fact the data from U.S. attorneys offices nationwide show prosecution of ATF cases has declined by 25 percent on his watch.

Local law enforcement and citizens in the two cities are acutely aware of the impact of their federal prosecutors’ approach.

Mr. Brown helped us streamline the adoption of these cases from the state agencies to federal agencies to prosecute our most violent offenders, and it sticks. Federal prosecution is better, with more certainty of conviction,” said Sam Cochran, Mobile’s local sheriff. “But the county level and the city maintain an aggressive approach. We do the detective work, paperwork, make sure we’re dealing with a convicted felon with a record, write up the case and then take it to the ATF and U.S. attorney.

“Down south, we have hot tempers and may be inclined to draw guns a little faster,” Mr. Cochran said. “Anything we can do to keep these guns a little further away — to deter hotheaded violence — is a good thing.”

Not only do officials advertise to criminals that if they get caught with a gun, it’s a federal offense and they will be going to jail, but Mr. Brown has also been working with faith-based partners to find reentry programs for convicts coming out of federal prison so they don’t get caught up in criminal activity once released.

Mr. Brown personally tries to find jobs and then recommends convicts, who come out of jail, for positions in Southern Alabama’s maritime industry.

“I’ve got a hammer or a job. It’s up to them to decide,” Mr. Brown explained. “My duty is to protect the community; it’s my ultimate goal.”

In Chicago, Mr. Fardon seems reluctant to use his hammer, instead focusing on prevention.

“The hammer of incarceration — it has its time and its place,” Mr. Fardon said in his interview with reporters last November. “But you also have to be creative and open to finding ways to deter crime and prevent violent crime from happening.”

Meanwhile, local police in Chicago seem to be spinning their wheels.

“At the end of the day, it’s like running on a hamster wheel [while] we’re drinking from a fire hose [in] seizing these guns, and people are coming right back out on the street,” Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said in April on the heels of a weekend that saw at least 37 people shot. “They’re not learning that carrying a firearm is going to have a severe impact on what’s happening in their lives.”

Story Continues →