Democrats who backed efforts to defund police departments and other criminal justice reforms that critics have blamed as most responsible for the huge spikes in crime around the country are using the rising tide of violence to justify new pushes for gun control.
As gun-related deaths rise, mostly in the largest American cities, Democrats plan to use the phenomenon during their campaigns as the party attempts to retain its narrow majorities in the House and Senate during next year’s midterm elections.
Data from the Gun Violence Archive compiled for NBC News found that gun deaths shot up 15 percent last year compared to the same period in 2019, but Republicans say that’s in large part due to policies Democrats have supported including “defund the police” efforts and liberal prosecutors who have eliminated cash bail and decline to charge people in a growing number of crimes over claims that laws are racist.
Democrats counter that the problem is with guns, not policies.
“At the moment there’s so many examples of irresponsible gun ownership, people having easy access to guns. It sort of makes the case,” University of New Haven criminal justice professor Michael Lawlor, also a former Democratic member of the Connecticut House, told The Hill.
To bolster their push, Democrats claim that new polling shows most Americans in favor of new gun control measures. They cite a March Morning Consult survey which allegedly found that 84 percent of voters, including 77 percent of Republicans, favor gun buyers being subjected to a background check.
“It’s very much become sort of a triple threat,” Charlie Kelly, who advises the gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety, told The Hill. “It mobilizes voters, it persuades, and it’s also increasingly becoming a litmus test issue where if a candidate is not supportive of gun safety measures, they’re basically disqualified as a choice for a voter.”
Such surveys, however, are often called out by Republicans and conservatives as misleading. They note that the vast majority of American gun buyers already go through FBI background checks when they buy firearms as required by current federal law. The exception are gun purchases between individuals who are not licensed gun dealers, and those account for only a small percentage of overall purchases.
Also, they point to other intangibles creating a rise in crime such as mass police retirements, leaving departments short of hundreds of officers, as well as a new hesitancy among law enforcement to put themselves at risk out of fear they will be involved in a fatal shooting and charged.
Finally, Republicans note that due to rising gun and other crimes, firearms sales have skyrocketed, setting new records amid purchases from first-time buyers. As such, conservatives are going in the opposite direction ahead of the 2022 midterms and pushing law and order as well as gun rights.
“Rising crime is a problem that must be addressed through both economic policies that are incentives to work while also giving law enforcement the support they need to enforce our laws,” GOP strategist Jon Gilmore said. “Republicans were successful in the 2020 cycle by addressing this important issue, and they would be wise to continue that drumbeat in the midterms.”
Last month the National Fraternal Order of Police tweeted a graphic entitled “SKYROCKETING MURDER RATES” showing updated data in seven major U.S. cities, adding: “Any guesses of what these cities have in common? In addition to having some elected officials that don’t do their jobs, the leadership in all of these cities turned the keys over to the ‘Defund the Police’ mob.”
Homicide rates are up 40 percent year-over-year in many major cities, the organization noted, the biggest single-year increase since 1960.
Nevertheless, Democrats are returning to familiar, and ultimately ineffective, gun control narratives to try and convince voters to keep them in power.
“Background checks and comprehensive background checks would be wonderful. Can we get there in a two-year term if I am successful? Can I get us there in a two-year term? I sure will try,” said Randy Friese, a trauma surgeon and Democratic Arizona House member, told The Hill.
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