Sessions Embracing ‘Project Exile’ a Result of Exclusive NRA Influence with Trump on Guns

Is there any doubt about who has Trump’s ear on guns? [2016 NRA-ILA Leadership Forum/YouTube]

“In Richmond, Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he will expand Project Exile nationwide,” the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.  “Project Exile is a widely copied program credited with cutting Richmond’s violent crime 20 years ago by shipping firearm violators to far-off federal prisons. When [FBI Director] Comey was appointed director of the FBI, Exile was frequently cited as one of his accomplishments.”

Except it wasn’t really as big of an accomplishment as he (and the National Rifle Association) cracked it up to be, but it does go hand-in-fisted-glove with NRA Executive VP Wayne LaPierre’s longstanding position:

“Let’s agree on this: Every American city, let’s put Project Exile, every time a violent felon, drug dealer, gang member touches a gun, let’s prosecute.”

At the time then-NRA president Charlton Heston was telling “criminals” to “Make my day”  as he joined with anti-gun then-Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell to implement the program there, even though the numbers hardly substantiated the grandiose promises:

“In the final hours of 2004, Richmond topped its 2003 murder rate by one, securing its distinction as one of the nation’s most dangerous cities.

“The city’s final homicide of the year — called in to police around 8 p.m. New Year’s Eve was number 95, surpassing the previous year’s 94. In 2002, there were 83 and in 2001, 69.

“Murders in the United States dropped by nearly 6 percent in the first half of 2004 after rising for four straight years, the FBI reported. Numbers from the second half of 2004 have not been compiled.

“Richmond had the country’s fourth highest murder rate in 2003 and was ranked the nation’s ninth most dangerous city overall in 2004 _ beating out Miami and Compton, Calif. Richmond is the sixth most dangerous when compared to other cities with populations of 100,000 to 499,999.”

And while there was “a steep decline” reported in 2011, a 2016 report noted “Richmond ranks high among ‘murder capitals’ in the U.S.” and doubts about Exile were raised by the surge.

Care to see how they’re doing today?

Besides which, since when is “effectiveness” a measure of Constitutionality? Where is the authority to do this? That’s a question a group of us have been asking for years, and for which we have never received acknowledgement from Exile proponents, let alone a responsive answer. Perhaps it’s time to resurrect and heed the objections and warnings of the Project Exile Condemnation Coalition.

Even without resorting to the demonstrable truism that anyone who can’t be trusted with a gun can’t be trusted without a custodian, there is a variety of ways people who pose no danger to themselves or others are denied the right to keep and bear arms – and often without even the simulated motions of “due process.” That includes gun owners in hopelessly “blue states,” in which all doors for peaceable redress of grievances have been slammed shut by overwhelmingly “anti-gun” legislatures and judges. That means, in addition to violent gangbangers, cartel “soldiers,” Martha Stewart and Scooter Libby (don’t laugh – or do), a principled “I will not comply” activist who refuses to surrender his rights can be caught up in Exile’s net.

And that suits “rice bowl” gun groups just fine anyway. There’s not a lot of money in citizens concluding the system the lobbyists try to game is hopeless, and resorting to the time-honored American tradition of civil disobedience.

So expect AG Sessions to go forward with a renewed “gun control” enforcement emphasis, and attribute that to NRA having near exclusive access to President Trump’s ear on the gun issue. That’s due not only to its early and continued political support of his candidacy, but also because the other national gun group with a dog in the Exile fight, Gun Owners of America, sat on its hands, declining to endorse Trump after its preferred candidate, Ted Cruz, had been sidelined. Agree with that stance on principle or not, the political reality – and that’s the field lobbyists play on – is that NRA has a seat at the table.

What far too many gun owners have not figured out, because I see them repeating the mantra all the time, is that those who counsel to “Enforce existing gun laws” might as well be saying “Enforce existing Intolerable Acts.” If Trump and Sessions really wants to honor their oaths, they’ll focus on challenging existing gun laws, something another president and attorney general refused to even support, despite all the pandering noises about them being “pro gun.”


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About Author

David Codrea

David Codrea blogs at The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance (, and is a field editor/columnist for GUNS Magazine. Named “Journalist of the Year” in 2011 by the Second Amendment Foundation for his groundbreaking work on the “Fast and Furious” ATF “gunwalking” scandal, he is a frequent event speaker and guest on national radio and television programs.