Sen. Shelby: Obama Commuted Sentences of 33 Inmates Convicted of Firearm Violations

Barbara Hollingsworth | April 1, 2016 | 3:12pm EDT
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Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL). (AP photo)

( –  Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) criticized President Obama for commuting the sentences of 33 criminals he said were convicted of firearm-related offenses while pushing for more gun control.

“By my count, the President has commuted the sentences of over 200 of these ‘non-violent’ federal inmates, of which 33 were convicted of firearm-related offenses,” Shelby wrote in a sharply worded March 31 letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

Shelby sent the letter to Lynch a day after Obama commuted the sentences of 61 federal prisoners, bringing the total to 248, more than the last six presidents combined, according to the White House.

The senator claimed that 12 of the 61 “were convicted of one, if not more, firearm-related offenses,” including:

  • "Seven convictions of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime;
  • "Four convictions of possession of a firearm by a felon; and
  • "Two convictions of use of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.”

“Two of the individuals with firearm-related convictions are residents of Alabama and will soon return home in July, their sentences reduced,” Shelby noted.

He added that “these recent sentence commutations come on the heels of the President’s newly proposed executive actions on restricting firearms announced in January 2016.”

The senator pointed out that part of the Justice Department’s own criteria for Obama’s “new initiative for executive clemency” was that only “non-violent individuals who would not pose a threat to public safety” and who “have no history of violence prior to, or during, their current term of imprisonment” would be released.

However, Wednesday’s announcement “clearly demonstrates that the Administration is not following its own selection criteria,” the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies told Lynch.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch. (AP photo)

“When you testified at my hearing on January 20, 2016, regarding the President’s executive actions, I brought up prior commutations that involved releasing individuals with firearm convictions,” Shelby reminded her.

“I asked you if you felt that the President is sending a mixed message to Americans when he issues new executive actions in an attempt to change gun regulations one day, and then pardons criminals with gun-related convictions the next.

“I also asked you how the President can say he is ‘committed to using every tool at the Administration’s disposal to reduce gun violence’ when his own Administration is not even following through with the sentences of criminals with firearm-related convictions.

“At the time, you said that you were not aware of the particular sentence commutations involving firearm-related convictions, but that you would look into these cases. We have yet to hear back from you or the Department [of Justice] about these or any other questions from the hearing, which were due at the end of February.”

In January, Obama announced his intention to take executive action on gun control “to make sure that the wrong people don’t have them for the wrong reasons.”

Shelby also told Lynch that his subcommittee would not approve any increased funding for the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney, which screens inmates’ applications for clemency before they are submitted to the president.

“I have no confidence in the ability of the Office of the Pardon Attorney to properly screen requests for executive clemency or to effectively convey any recommendations throughout the Administration,” the senator wrote.

“I want to do everything I can to keep our communities safer, and that includes keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, the mentally ill, and violent offenders,” Shelby concluded.

“Right now, I am unsure if the Administration shares this goal.”

Related: WH: Obama Has Commuted Sentences of More Prisoners Than Last 6 Presidents Combined

Related: Obama Says His Unilateral Gun-Control Actions ‘Are Entirely Consistent With 2nd Amendment’

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