San Francisco’s newly elected District Attorney is vowing not to enforce several laws on the books in the city, including prostitution, public urination, camping in public, and several other “quality of life” crimes. Chesa Boudin, whose parents were domestic terrorists involved in the Weather Underground, and who was raised by fugitive members Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, is now bringing his radical ideas to the prosecutor’s office in San Francisco, but he may very well end up giving political ammunition to Second Amendment activists around the country.
One of the biggest objections to the idea of Second Amendment Sanctuary cities or counties is that “you can’t just ignore the law.” Sure, you can, as Boudin is set to demonstrate. Over at HotAir, my friend Jazz Shaw takes a dim view of Boudin’s decision not to prosecute some crimes, arguing that there are better ways to deal with bad laws.
If you think that certain crimes should no longer be classified as such or perhaps carry more minor penalties, then fine. Work with your local legislators and have the laws changed. But the job of a District Attorney is to enforce the laws as they exist, not as he or she might wish they existed. When you become the District Attorney, you take an oath to uphold the law. San Francisco has just elected a person who ran on a promise to violate his oath before he even got into office.
I love Jazz, and I do see his point, but police and prosecutors use discretion all the time. Obviously, there are lots of cases of individuals who get off with a warning instead of an arrest, or cases brought to prosecutors that are denied because the interests of justice wouldn’t be served by a prosecution. But there are also plenty of prosecutors around the country who have announced that they won’t be prosecuting entire categories of crimes, like minor drug offenses, for example.
So when a sheriff announces that he won’t be enforcing unconstitutional gun control laws, he’s not doing anything different than what San Francisco’s new District Attorney will be doing. Heck, even anti-gun politicians like Andrew Cuomo have been known to ignore their own gun control laws when it suits their purposes. Why shouldn’t sheriffs and police chiefs say they’ll use that same discretion to not enforce gun laws that they believe violate the constitutional rights of their constituents?
Chesa Boudin says he wants to “transform” the criminal justice system in San Francisco. Perhaps while ignoring the laws against public pooping and prostitution, he could also decide against prosecuting individuals for non-violent possessory offenses involving firearms. Boudin says, for instance, that he’ll stop the DA’s office from bringing gang enhancement charges because of the disproportionate impact they have on young men of color, but there are many more young minority males who aren’t gang members who are caught up in the web of California’s draconian gun laws. If the criminal justice system is inherently flawed, as Boudin believes, then the enforcement of the state’s gun laws must be part of the problem.
Somehow I suspect that the gun control laws will continue to be fully enforced in San Francisco, even as other crimes go unpunished by prosecutors. That’s up to Boudin, just as it’s up to other law enforcement officials in their jurisdictions to decide which crimes will be a priority for their office in terms of enforcement.
For the most part, the Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions that we’ve seen approved by city councils and county commissions have been symbolic measures, at least for now. I suspect that will change in the new year, however, with a number of states pursuing measures like “red flag” laws, universal background checks, and bans on commonly owned firearms and magazines. Palo Pinto County, Texas, which just became the state’s eighth Second Amendment Sanctuary, may not have to deal with any new unconstitutional gun laws, but Campbell County, Virginia, which became a Second Amendment Sanctuary this week, almost certainly will.
I suspect Governor Ralph Northam and other anti-gun politicians in Virginia will chastise Campbell County and other Second Amendment Sanctuaries that refuse to enforce his soon-to-be-enacted gun control laws, but the fact of the matter is that his fellow Democrats are leading the way in ignoring laws they don’t like. Discretionary enforcement is something of a non-partisan trend these days, and anti-gun politicians shouldn’t be surprised when the arguments and legal rationale of a San Francisco radical are adopted by Second Amendment supporters in rural Virginia.