Ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, with rising violent crime a top concern for voters, the vast majority of Democrats are now working overtime to distance themselves from their prior support for the “Defund the Police” movement. Increasingly, however, it appears that they’re linking this professed newfound support for law enforcement to another pillar of Democrats’ far-left agenda – gun control.
After backlash to the “defund” movement contributed to dozens of House Democrats losing or facing closer-than-expected races in 2020, the party slowly began changing its tune on policing. While some, like Missouri Congresswoman Cori Bush, have continued their calls for “dismantling” police departments, the White House and Democratic leadership are now saying that they in fact support police and have always supported police – even accusing Republicans, who spent all of 2020 and 2021 vigorously defending police from attacks by left-wing politicians and news outlets, of not supporting them.
As Axios reported late last month, Democratic candidates in Ohio, Georgia, Florida, and other states are “spotlighting law enforcement to boost their credibility on fighting crime.” Party strategists are now privately admitting that “the defund debate damaged Democrats’ reputation on crime,” and many “fear a voter perception that Democrats don’t recognize the problem with violent crime and don’t respect the role police play in keeping communities safe.”
But as part of their effort to mask their complete reversal of position when it comes to support for police, many Democrats—including Biden himself—have attempted to make the issue of rising crime about guns rather than policing, implying that support for the Second Amendment is incompatible with support for law enforcement.
Take, for example, a recent ad aired by a group aligned with Stacey Abrams, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee in Georgia. In the 30-second spot, a man identified as a former Deputy Sheriff accuses incumbent Republican Governor Brian Kemp of “making us less safe” for signing a constitutional carry bill into law earlier this year. The ad accuses Kemp of making it “easier” for criminals to carry loaded guns “in public, at the movies, in church.” The implication is that by signing the law, which allows Georgians who aren’t otherwise prohibited from owning a firearm to concealed carry without submitting to a tedious and sometimes expensive permitting process, Kemp is undermining public safety and making it more difficult for police to do their jobs.
Notably, however, more than 100 sheriffs have endorsed Kemp’s reelection bid, and the sitting governor has broad support from the law enforcement community. Abrams, who now proclaims to support pay raises for police, has in the past called for “reallocating” police resources. Moreover, Abrams still sits on the board of the Marguerite Casey Foundation, a group that has supported “defunding and abolishing the police.”
Abrams is far from the only Democrat attempting to employ this strategy. At the federal level, Democrats in Congress – led by vulnerable incumbents like Abigail Spanberger of Virginia and Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey – have pushed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to pass a number of supposed “police funding bills” that are intended to lend credence to Democrat claims to support law enforcement. But these efforts have all been tied to greater gun control measures, sending a clear message that Democrats view the two issues as inextricably connected.
The White House, meanwhile, has introduced a new initiative called the “Safer America Plan,” which purportedly increases funding for law enforcement. Once again, however, support for police is tied to gun control measures. In a fact sheet on the plan released by the White House, Biden calls for requiring “background checks for all gun sales” and banning so-called “assault weapons” and high-capacity magazines.
But as Republicans have long pointed out, Democrats’ assertion that restricting gun ownership will automatically lead to less crime isn’t supported by the facts. As economist John Lott argued in his work More Guns, Less Crime, empirical evidence actually points to the opposite conclusion. Recent examples, like the shooting at a mall in Greenwood, Indiana, where an armed bystander stopped a mass shooting in progress, also support the idea that responsible gun ownership can be an effective crime deterrent. A similar case occurred in West Virginia in May, when an armed woman stopped a man firing indiscriminately into a crowd at a birthday party. These incidents are just two of at least 21 such cases since the start of 2020. As Republicans continue to point out, laws making it more difficult for Americans to own and carry firearms won’t stop criminals from doing so but will stop law-abiding Americans interested in protecting themselves and their families.
At the same time, even as they work to restrict legal gun ownership, Democrats seem to have largely given up on prosecuting illegal gun ownership. New York City’s “stop and frisk” policy was originally designed in large part to get illegal guns off the street, and was quite successful at doing so – yet former mayor Bill de Blasio ended the practice anyway. Democrat soft-on-crime prosecutors have also allowed criminals caught with illegal guns back out onto the streets, in some cases to commit more gun crimes.
Democrats and the mainstream media, meanwhile, have construed Republican opposition to gun control measures as evidence that the GOP in fact does not support police, attempting to completely flip the script on the popular perception of the two parties’ records on public safety. As American communities continue to suffer the tragic consequences of the left’s two-year war on law enforcement, however, Democrats’ complicity in their suffering will be a difficult memory to erase.