By Larry Keane
Big city mayors must have a standard checklist in the back of their press briefing binders. That page would have one entry that would read:
“When your failed policies create chaos, blame guns.”
It would sound ridiculous, but that is what is happening. Crime is skyrocketing in New York City, Chicago, Atlanta and Seattle. Those aren’t the only cities, but a crime storm is brewing. City leaders are engaging in a blame game rather than accountability when the consequences of failed policies wreak havoc in their communities. Their bogeyman is a gun. Laying the blame at the feet of the criminals committing the crimes would be problematic because it would call into question a series of poor decisions that left citizens vulnerable and forfeited their streets to criminals.
Blaming guns has become almost a knee-jerk reaction. The accusation is lobbed at the inanimate object enough that it would seem to be losing luster if it were not for an adoring and unquestioning media. Chicago’s Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot was asked about the meteoric rise in homicides and attempted murders in the Windy City. Her answer minimized the issue and anyone who dared question her answer all at the same time.
“That’s a complicated question,” Mayor Lightfoot said, according to the Washington Examiner. “We have way too many guns on the streets.”
Her trite response came after the news that murders in Chicago were up by 78 percent in June, criminal shootings were up by 75 percent, over 2019’s figures. That accounts for 424 people shot, and 89 people murdered. For comparison, in June 2019, those figures were 242 shootings and 50 murders. It’s also on the horrific revelation a 3-year-old was murdered on Father’s Day and a 14-year-old boy and 7-year-old girl were murdered over July 4th weekend.
Same Story, Different City
Seattle showed the absurdity of elected officials refusing to address criminal activity too. Protestors set up their “Capitol Hill Occupied Zone” (CHOP) or “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” (CHAZ) and it quickly became a den of criminal activity. NSSF pointed out organizers were illegally distributing firearms in contravention of recently-passed state laws. Seattle’s Democratic Mayor Jennie Durkan called it a “summer of love” and a “block party atmosphere.” That was until protestors showed up on her doorstep and tragically, two were killed in the protest zone and another four were injured from criminal shootings. One teen was killed when his vehicle approached barriers at the protest zone and criminals opened fire.
New York City’s Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio blamed the spike in criminal activity on the coronavirus and quarantine orders. The Big Apple witnessed more than 64 people shot and 10 killed over July 4th weekend. One was a father holding his 6-year-old daughter’s hand as they crossed the street. Criminals pulled up in a car in broad daylight and murdered the man in front of his child. Shootings in NYC totaled 528 at the end of June, making it the worst year from criminal misuse of guns since 1996.
Atlanta’s Democratic Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms decried the murder that claimed the life of 8-year-old Secoriea Turner. “You shot and killed a baby,” the mayor said to the criminals who claimed control of the area surrounding a fast-food restaurant. Armed men told news media just weeks ago that “police aren’t allowed here,” after taking over the area. Citizens told media they were threatened and intimidated. No action was taken until Secoria was murdered.
Get to the Root
These problems are not an issue of lawful gun ownership. These are crimes. People lawfully buying firearms today are overwhelmingly saying they are concerned for their personal safety. Those concerns began when mayors and governors began releasing criminals back into the community at the onset of the coronavirus. Mayor de Blasio released nearly a thousand prisoners in the first month alone. New York’s Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law last year eliminating bail holds for those accused of crimes and turns criminals back on the street within hours. Illinois’ Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker released 4,000 prisoners, including 64 convicted murderers. Washington’s Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee released 1,000 convicts from prison.
On top of that, these same elected officials are backing calls to defund police. Mayor de Blasio slashed $1 billion in police funding and disbanded plain-clothes anti-crime police units that were highly effective at taking illegally possessed firearms out of the hands of criminals. Seattle’s Mayor Durkan proposed cutting $409 million from city police budgets. Atlanta’s Mayor Bottoms said her city is “ahead of the curve” on “reallocating funds” from police.
These cities don’t have a gun problem. They have a crime problem. They also have a leadership problem that will scapegoat the issue and expose their citizens to criminals who will prey on the most vulnerable in our communities.
Larry Keane is Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.