Written by Hudson Crozier
In 2021, at least 16 cities broke homicide records. Between January and May of this year, seven saw a rise in violent offenses compared to the same period last year. In the July 4 holiday weekend alone, over 220 Americans were killed in shootings.
How are progressives addressing gun violence?
After several recent mass shootings, Democrats in Congress have endorsed measures to tighten the processes for legal gun ownership nationwide. These include “red flag” laws, new age restrictions, increased penalties for “straw purchases” from licensed dealers, and changes to the federal background check system.
When it comes to targeting specific firearms, the Left has had its eye on “assault weapons” for years. Democrats have repeatedly responded to mass shootings with new demands for regulating them, and this year is no different. President Biden led the charge in June by urging Congress to ban them, the House passed a bill raising the age requirement for ownership from 18 to 21, and Representative Donald Beyer (D-VA) proposed taxing them by 1,000% to make ownership more difficult.
In his June address on mass shootings, Biden presented his proposals on assault weapons, red flag laws, gun manufacturers, and more as so urgent that Americans should make them “central” to their vote.
What’s actually behind most gun violence in the U.S.?
Handguns, not assault weapons. Between 1999 and 2019, assault weapons were involved in just over a quarter of America’s mass shootings (killings of at least 4 people). In 2020, they were identified in 3 percent of firearm murders, while handguns were the most common murder weapon in the country.
Illegal guns, not legal guns. Years’ worth of government data has shown that a majority of gun crimes involve guns obtained illegally. This has even been acknowledged by left-wing sources like Politifact and the Washington Post. A 2016 survey of prison inmates across the country found that less than 2 percent who carried a firearm had gotten it from a retail seller; most had stolen it or gotten it off the black market. Furthermore, the amount of illegal weaponry in circulation is thought to be severely underreported.
Considering the above, we know that regulating assault weapons and licensed gun purchases will do nothing to stop the overwhelming majority of gun violence. The main driving force of gun violence, as well as the primary threat to American communities, is crime, not the absence of certain gun laws. Strategies from Democrats that might address this in some way, such as Biden’s promise to crack down on “ghost guns,” comprise a tiny part of their overall agenda.
Democrats enabled gun violence in 2020 for the sake of radical police reform.
In 2020, soft-on-crime policies by progressive leaders ushered in more violent crime across the country. The main factor was the weakening of law enforcement through the "defund the police" movement, which brought record increases in violent crime in over 20 Democratic districts.
In particular, 2020 saw a spike in gun violence as guns were overwhelmingly involved in most murders nationwide. Amidst the already high rates of illegal firearms traditionally, police in Chicago and Washington D.C. reported higher rates of illegal gun possession in 2020 than in the past several years. As that was happening, those cities ignored the warning signs and defunded their police. Portland not only defunded its police but disbanded a “Gun Violence Reduction Unit” over claims that it was systemically racist. As reported by the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, and KOIN, shootings rose dramatically in all three cities that year.
Progressive criminal reform deliberately undermines gun laws.
Beginning prior to 2020, the most persistent soft-on-crime agenda in liberal districts has been the rise of “criminal justice reform.” Due to the low rate of incarceration endorsed by progressive attorneys and activists, violent criminals often stay on the streets. See our coverage of Darrell Brooks, Quintez Brown, and the leadership of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin for in-depth examples. Some liberal governors have the power to sanction or potentially fire radical district attorneys but fail to act on it.
The combination of criminal reform with gun reform creates a contradiction regarding how gun crime is handled in some cities. This became clear in the case of Los Angeles gang member Justin Flores.
In February 2021, Flores pleaded guilty to illegally possessing a firearm as a felon. Due to District Attorney George Gascon’s reforms that limited prosecution for gun possession, Flores served 20 days in prison instead of what could have been a minimum of 18 months. Sixteen months later, he obtained a gun again and fatally shot two police officers.
While law enforcement and lawyers in L.A. have blamed the incident on Gascon’s lenient approach to crime, he hasn't acknowledged responsibility. He has, however, been outspoken about more gun control in response to mass shootings. California’s gun laws are already among the strictest in the country, but gun crime, like other crime, incurs less punishment under Gascon’s policies.