- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Federal and state prosecutors announced charges Wednesday against eight Rhode Island residents who they said lied on their background checks in order to buy guns, marking the latest prosecutions as the Trump administration steps up efforts to enforce gun laws already on the books.

In at least some of the cases the buyers were “straw purchasers,” getting guns that they would then pass on to other individuals who were unable to buy or possess firearms themselves. In one of the cases the person was accused of lying about his marijuana use when buying firearms.

These kinds of cases, dubbed “lie and try,” have launched to the forefront after recent high-profile shootings.

“Stemming the flow of illegal firearms into our neighborhoods by keeping them out of the hands of those who either purchase them illegally or are prohibited by law from possessing them is a top priority of this office and of our law enforcement partners,” said U.S. Attorney Stephen G. Dambruch.

Rhode Island federal and state prosecutors have charged five people in federal complaints with making false statements during purchases of firearms: Molyka Preap, 31, and Darien Young, 23, both of Providence, Ademola Kayode Jr., 25, of Warwick, Lucilo Mena, 56, of Cranston, and Tarriek Gill, 24, of Cumberland.

Three people — Brian Luna, 22, Alex Cuevas-Polanco, 20, and Daniel Carides, 22, all of Providence — have been arrested on state firearms and drug charges.

In the case of Mr. Mena, authorities say he bought one 9 mm pistol knowing he was going to resell it, but didn’t say that on his purchase form. The gun was later recovered during an investigation into a shooting in Boston last summer.

It’s a federal crime for someone lie on a background check form to try to hide past criminal or mental issues that would bar him from buying a gun, or to hide a straw purchase.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions urged U.S. Attorneys across the country to swiftly and aggressively prosecute people who “lie and try” to buy guns, after the Obama administration oversaw a broad decline in gun-related prosecutions.

The number of prosecuted cases arising based on denials through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) was “extremely low” compared to other gun crimes, according to a 2016 Justice Department inspector general report.

From 2008 to 2015, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) referred 509 cases to U.S. attorneys and 254 of those were accepted for prosecution, the report said.

But in 2003 alone, 166 subjects were accepted for prosecution consideration, it said.

Prosecutions from U.S. Attorneys were most frequent when “aggravated circumstances” existed in addition to a false “no” on a gun buy application form, the report said.

Gun-related prosecutions have gotten renewed interest in the wake of last month’s Parkland, Florida, shooting that killed 17 students and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Several senators are pushing new legislation that would require federal authorities to alert state law enforcement within 24 hours when NICS flags someone who lies about their background to get a gun.

Thirteen states already run their own background checks through NICS, and the bill is meant to alert authorities in the 37 states that rely at least in part on the FBI to run the checks to people who lie on their background check forms to try to buy a gun.

Rhode Island is among the latter group.

Some lawmakers are also calling for prosecutors to more aggressively pursue cases involving “straw purchasers” who can pass a background check and try to buy guns for those who can’t.

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