Mike Hurst, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi

Mississippi’s southern judicial district now ranks in the top ten for federal weapons prosecutions, a new report shows.

In the first 10 months of fiscal year 2018, the federal government obtained 127 weapons-related prosecutions in the southern district of Mississippi, according to analysis by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University released Monday.

At 81 weapons prosecutions per one million people, the district now ranks ninth across the country’s 94 federal judicial districts per capita. Missouri’s Eastern District, headquartered in St. Louis, ranked No. 1 at 230 prosecutions per million people.

Last year, the district obtained only 37 weapons prosecutions; two years ago, there were 73.

The new data dovetails with the introduction of U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst’s Project EJECT, an initiative aimed at reducing violent crime Mississippi’s capital city. Project EJECT, federal officials have said, aims to arrest and detain people in an effort to prosecute them in the federal system, under which convicted criminals can be sent to out-of-state prisons with no parole options. Many of the district’s prosecutions under Project EJECT have centered on the illegal possession or use of guns, per press releases from Hurst’s office.

In recent town halls across Jackson this summer, Hurst has touted statistics demonstrating the efficacy of the initiative, now in its ninth month. Project EJECT’s results, Hurst has said, include a 22 percent drop in violent crime from the last year and over 70 indictments on federal charges so far although he has also acknowledged a 60 percent jump in the number of homicides over last year.

Across the country, weapons prosecutions are also rising. Recent Justice Department data show that 8,403 new weapons prosecutions were reported in the first ten months of the fiscal year. TRAC analysis shows that based on projections, federal weapons prosecutions are up 22.5 percent from last year. If the pace continues through the end of the year, there will be 31.2 weapons prosecutions for every one million people in the United States this year.

Last fiscal year, the federal government obtained 25.5 weapons prosecutions for every one million people.

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Michelle Liu was a 2018 corps member for Report for America, a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms. She covered criminal justice issues across the state from June 2018 until May 2020. Prior to joining the Mississippi Today team, her work appeared in the New Haven Independent.