One of the offshoots of the protests and riots that have erupted in most American cities over the past few days has been a growing call on the left to defund law enforcement and end policing. Search Twitter for the hashtag #DefundPolice and you’ll see thousands of people urging an end to law enforcement as a radical, yet necessary step to eliminate injustices perpetrated by police officers.
Getting a lot of replies tonight about the demand to Defund Police, police abolition, etc. 1st I’d say that “Defund Police” is not *my* demand, but it is the demand emanating from the Black-led organizers who have been doing this work for years right now in this moment. (thread)
— DEFUND POLICE (@jaybeware) May 31, 2020
This campaign raises several serious questions, starting with “Haven’t the past few nights given us evidence of what would likely happen if law enforcement simply disappeared?”
So what about “crime” – well to deal with crime, it is also clear that you have to deal with inequality in society. Reparations, social spending, UBI, universal free healthcare, universal free education. The root of crime is poverty, inequity, racism and policing itself.
— DEFUND POLICE (@jaybeware) May 31, 2020
Unfortunately for the Defund Police movement, the economic damage done by the coronavirus lock down (compounded by the damage in many cities by looters and rioters) is going to make it economically unfeasible to offer up “free” healthcare, college education, universal basic income, and the other pricey programs that supporters believe would end crime and make law enforcement irrelevant (even if the American public were to vote in politicians who would attempt to implement this agenda). The Defund Police movement might be happy to learn, however, that the same economic damage is also likely to lead to budget reductions for governments across the board, including first responders. We’re likely going to see fewer uniformed police officers this time next year, along with fewer firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics, whether we like it or not.
I can’t help but wonder, however, how many of the same folks that are calling for an end to policing are also big believers in the idea that we need all kinds of new gun control laws. Joe Biden’s gun control agenda would not only not defund law enforcement, it would dramatically expand the number of federal felony gun laws on the books and lead to even more police power.
- Regulate possession of existing assault weapons under the National Firearms Act. Currently, the National Firearms Act requires individuals possessing machine-guns, silencers, and short-barreled rifles to undergo a background check and register those weapons with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Due to these requirements, such weapons are rarely used in crimes. As president, Biden will pursue legislation to regulate possession of existing assault weapons under the National Firearms Act.
- Buy back the assault weapons and high-capacity magazines already in our communities. Biden will also institute a program to buy back weapons of war currently on our streets. This will give individuals who now possess assault weapons or high-capacity magazines two options: sell the weapons to the government, or register them under the National Firearms Act.
Making the most commonly sold and possessed rifle in the United States illegal will likely lead to millions of Americans breaking the law by maintaining possession of the guns they already own. How will Biden enforce his gun ban without law enforcement?
Require background checks for all gun sales. Today, an estimated 1 in 5 firearms are sold or transferred without a background check. Biden will enact universal background check legislation, requiring a background check for all gun sales with very limited exceptions, such as gifts between close family members. This will close the so-called “gun show and online sales loophole” that the Obama-Biden Administration narrowed, but which cannot be fully closed by executive action alone.
Again, how do you even attempt to enforce a universal background check law on private transfers of firearms without police getting involved?
Incentivize state “extreme risk” laws. Extreme risk laws, also called “red flag” laws, enable family members or law enforcement officials to temporarily remove an individual’s access to firearms when that individual is in crisis and poses a danger to themselves or others. Biden will incentivize the adoption of these laws by giving states funds to implement them. And, he’ll direct the U.S. Department of Justice to issue best practices and offer technical assistance to states interested in enacting an extreme risk law.
It’s going to be awfully tough to enable law enforcement officers to “temporarily remove an individual’s access to firearms” when there’s no more law enforcement, isn’t it?
Give states incentives to set up gun licensing programs. Biden will enact legislation to give states and local governments grants to require individuals to obtain a license prior to purchasing a gun.
If police have been defunded, who’s going to be responsible for ensuring that the only gun owners are those who’ve been licensed by the state?
Biden even has an entire section of his campaign plank on gun control devoted to “empowering” law enforcement, not defunding it.
Empower law enforcement to effectively enforce our gun laws.
- Prioritize prosecution of straw purchasers. “Straw purchasers” buy a firearm on behalf of an individual who cannot pass a background check. Biden will end those loopholes by enacting a law to make all straw purchases a serious federal crime and ensure the U.S. Justice Department has sufficient resources to prioritize their prosecution.
- Notify law enforcement when a potential firearms purchaser fails a background check. Too often, when prohibited persons attempting to buy a firearm fail a background check, state and local law enforcement is never informed of the attempt. As president, Biden will direct the FBI to set up a process to ensure timely notification of denials to state and local law enforcement, and he’ll support legislation to codify this process. This empowers law enforcement to follow up and ensure prohibited persons do not attempt to acquire firearms through other means.
- Require firearms owners to report if their weapon is lost or stolen. Responsible gun owners have a responsibility to inform law enforcement if their weapon is lost or stolen. Biden will enact legislation to make this the law of the land.
- Stop “ghost guns.” One way people who cannot legally obtain a gun may gain access to a weapon is by assembling a one on their own, either by buying a kit of disassembled gun parts or 3D printing a working firearm. Biden will stop the proliferation of these so-called “ghost guns” by passing legislation requiring that purchasers of gun kits or 3D printing code pass a federal background check. Additionally, Biden will ensure that the authority for firearms exports stays with the State Department, and if needed reverse a proposed rule by President Trump. This will ensure the State Department continues to block the code used to 3D print firearms from being made available on the Internet.
- Reform, fund, and empower the U.S. Justice Department to enforce our gun laws. Biden will direct his Attorney General to deliver to him within his first 100 days a set of recommendations for restructuring the ATF and related Justice Department agencies to most effectively enforce our gun laws. Biden will then work to secure sufficient funds for the Justice Department to effectively enforce our existing gun laws, increase the frequency of inspections of firearms dealers, and repeal riders that get in the way of that work.
- Direct the ATF to issue an annual report on firearms trafficking. This report will provide officials with critical information to better identify strategies for curbing firearms trafficking.
That doesn’t sound very defund-y to me.
Joe Biden and many of his fellow Democrats have been all in favor of expanding police power in order to enforce their anti-gun agenda, even when it results in thousands of young black men going to prison and having felony records for simply possessing a firearm without a license. In Virginia, Democrats in control of the state legislature this year ignored a proposal that would have empowered cities to reduce violence in high crime neighborhoods by focusing on the most violent offenders. Instead, they rallied behind Gov. Ralph Northam’s gun control agenda and the expanded authority for law enforcement that goes along with it.
I expect that Joe Biden and other Democrats are going to try to have it both ways. They’ll talk up the need for a dramatic overhaul of the criminal justice system, but they won’t overhaul their own policies that expand police power and allow for discriminatory licensing laws and other policies that not only have a chilling effect on the exercise of a constitutionally-protected right, but fail to reduce crime as well. In the end, they’ll choose the gun bans and other restrictions on our Second Amendment rights over the demands to ban police. If given the chance, they’ll likely curb the ability of law enforcement to respond to riots that threaten the safety and security of American citizens even as they embolden police to lock up those who may try to protect themselves and their families with a firearm.