Portland, Oregon Mayor Ted Wheeler is facing a tough re-election challenge this year, but it’s not a conservative who’s challenging the progressive (this is Portland we’re talking about, after all). Instead, the mayor’s down by double digits in a recent poll to a candidate even further to Wheeler’s left.
Sarah Iannarone has declared “I am antifa” and recently made national headlines for wearing a skirt covered in the visages of Communist leaders from Stalin to Mao. As Portland’s Willamette Weekly recently described her:
Few have latched onto the energy of protest more than Iannarone, who has been on the front lines dozens of times, refers to herself as an “everyday anti-fascist,” and has declared, “I am Antifa.”
If Portlanders are fed up with Wheeler, Iannarone has a simple pitch for them: She hated Ted before it was cool. She’s relentlessly opposed him for four years. And she offers Portland a clean break from the string of white men who have run the city since Katz left office 15 years ago.
“The city deserves better than Ted Wheeler,” Iannarone says. “I have a real vision for Portland, and the reason I’ve pulled these policies together is because that’s what I see as our pathway out of this mess.”
Iannarone’s pathway includes a call for “rethinking public safety” by (among other things) cutting the funding to the Portland police, legalizing all sex workers, establishing supervised injection sites where drug addicts can shoot up under the watchful eyes of counselors, removing armed school resources officers from public schools, and :creating a “red flag registry and implementing a gun buyback program.”
“A gun safety task force should be implemented that will focus on the prevalence of domestic violence, white nationalist terrorism, misogynistic violence, and fascist gangs. While the federal government has not done enough to end mass gun violence, there are things that the City of Portland could do to make all of us safer. Sarah’s administration will immediately create a gun buyback program that will pay community members for any firearm with no questions asked. These weapons should then be immediately destroyed. Further, Portland should use the code enforcement process to ensure that all gun shops require background checks for guns, including at gun shows.”
Gun “buybacks” work to reduce violent crime as well as Communism does to increase prosperity and happiness, which is to say not at all. It’s also laughable that Iannarone’s task force will focus on things like “fascist gangs” without even glancing at the issue of actual gang violence, which is the most prevalent kind of gun-involved violence in the city.
To be fair, the candidate does have a separate section on her campaign website addressed specifically to “gun violence prevention” where she talks about her favored ways to reduce gang-related violence.
Violence is a disease and we must adopt a public health approach to end it. That means considering violence not as a criminal justice problem in need of increased policing but one requiring holistic, community-led responses and prevention strategies. To solve this crisis, we must build and maintain healthy partnerships across governments, sectors, organizations, and social, educational and healthcare providers to focus on upstream prevention even as we address the public’s immediate safety needs. As Portland’s next mayor, my decision-making will be driven by the best available science to help us stem gun violence and address the underlying conditions from which gun violence emerges.
Though Iannarone says that violence isn’t a criminal justice problem, as you read through her policy proposals you eventually realize that despite saying things like “Gun violence is a public health crisis that must be addressed through multifaceted structural reforms that strengthen and stabilize communities while eliminating long-standing inequity,” and “Portland must not revert to antiquated, racist systems when leaders have failed to embrace a comprehensive public health approach” (referring to the now-shuttered Gun Violence Reduction Team within the Portland Police Bureau), her plan actually does contain plenty of support for old-school gun control laws that require enforcement by armed agents of the state.
- Expand access to Extreme Risk Protection Orders, educating the public so EPRO’s are widely accessible, including requiring a poster detailing how they work in all City buildings. Encourage use of Extreme Risk Protection Orders to remove guns from individuals that are at high risk of harming themselves or others. Highlight and track equity impacts, especially for BIPOC community members who may feel uncomfortable seeking assistance and/or to ensure the program is not disproportionately disarming BIPOC Portlanders.
- Direct city lobbyists to work with and credit local groups helping to further gun safety legislative efforts in Oregon’s capital for equitable statewide gun violence prevention policies. This includes measures such as ensuring safe storage of firearms, raising the minimum age to 21, imposing a waiting period to deter suicide and impulse shootings, and closing the Charleston Loophole.
- Enforce existing gun regulation legislation with an emphasis on preventing future disasters. Work with the District Attorney to hold those accountable who violate state statutes.
The campaign notes that Iannarone’s policy was put together:
“in partnership with Oregon teens who have been working on this project since middle school, as a part of March for Our Lives, and who are now ending their time in high school having seen nowhere near the progress they deserve to be safe in their schools and lives. This plan has been drafted with their direct involvement, vetted by experts on Gun Violence prevention, and BIPOC Portlanders who have faced worse incidence of violence as well as unequal enforcement of related laws.”
I’ll give a little credit to Iannarone for not demanding an increase in taxes on firearms and ammunition, though given her support for gun “buybacks” that may just be an oversight. Still, Iannarone starts from the premise that guns are bad, gun ownership should be limited, and that we should be working for a gun-free society, which is as much of a utopian fantasy as Communism itself. Despite her protests about the inequities of the criminal justice system, she still calls for enforcement and prosecution of existing laws within that system. If she truly believe the system is broken, then why does she still want to use it?
Ultimately, it seems like Iannarone realizes that enforcement of non-violent, possessory gun control laws falls primarily on communities of color, but she fails to reach the obvious conclusion that, amidst all of the community violence prevention organizations, summer jobs programs, and efforts to address root causes, there needs to be a shift towards building a culture of lawful gun ownership. Iannarone’s plan includes giving drug users a safe place to shoot up, but has no room for ensuring that there are safe places for gun owners to shoot. There’s no mention of teaching youth how to be safe and responsible with firearms while inculcating lessons about the values of human life.
Gun sales and concealed carry applications are both increasing in Portland, and the city isn’t going gun-free anytime soon no matter who’s elected in November. Any plan that claims to be about re-thinking criminal justice and public safety while still relying on the old-school premise that guns are bad and should go away is ultimately still going to depend on the threat of cops and courts to enforce a gun control agenda. Iannarone may very well be the next mayor of Portland, but if she does occupy City Hall, she’ll bring the same anti-gun ideology that current mayor Ted Wheeler shares with her.