US officials to target gun violence in Connecticut

WASHINGTON Tue Nov 27, 2012 7:00am EST

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WASHINGTON Nov 27 (Reuters) - The Obama administration is taking a cautious step toward confronting the politically tricky subject of gun violence with an initiative focused on prevention due to be unveiled on Tuesday.

It will not be the gun control launch that some of President Barack Obama's supporters hoped for after Obama won a second four-year term in a Nov. 6 election.

Instead, U.S. Justice Department and Connecticut state officials will announce what one law enforcement official called a statewide approach that targets repeat criminals, creates alternatives for potential gang members and rallies neighborhoods against violence.

The initiative, known as Project Longevity, will send new federal grant money to Connecticut and involve agents, academics and social workers working for or with the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy are scheduled to discuss the plans at a news conference in New Haven, Connecticut, at 11 a.m. (1600 GMT).

Malloy, a Democrat, in June adopted a strategy known as "focused deterrence" that targets a small number of suspects who are under the supervision of probation officers or otherwise well known to law enforcement.

The model, which emphasizes education and other services for those suspects, as well as community meetings, has been credited with reducing violence in Boston and elsewhere.

Federal help for the effort is welcome even if Obama is not making a push to change laws that make guns easily available in much of the country, said Ron Pinciaro, executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence.

"The community needs to show a little more outrage on these things and demand that it be a top priority," Pinciaro said. "That will be more useful than another law right now."

Obama has repeatedly called for changes to federal gun laws, including a renewed ban on guns that critics call assault weapons. An earlier ban expired in 2004, and Obama reiterated his support for a new one in an October debate with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

But with other priorities, and facing strong opposition from pro-gun lobbyists, Obama has so far put off legislation.

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