U.S. Conference Of Mayors Wants To "Reimagine Public Safety"

AP Photo/John Minchillo

Most big cities are in the midst of a surge in violent crime that started last spring and kicked into overdrive last summer. Los Angeles has seen a 73% increase in shootings this year. New York City’s murder rate climbed by 45% last year, and homicides are up an additional 20% since January.

Chicago? A 34% increase in homicides this year, after increasing by 50% in 2020.

Seattle? A 61% increase in murders last year, and the homicide rate is on track to be just as high this year.

Similar stats can be found from coast to coast, so it shouldn’t be a surprised to learn that big city mayors want to focus on violent crime. Unfortunately, it sounds like many of them are also focused on the idea of more gun control as the answer.

A virtual summit later this month with the United States Conference of Mayors will focus on reimagining public safety.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, president of the conference, said minds across the country will come together online to work toward a more peaceful future.

“Crime issues, violent crime, gun-related in particular, are problems that almost every American city is experiencing right now,” Fischer said.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not particularly interested in “reimagining” public safety. I’d just like our elected officials to actually focus on reducing violent crime without trying to also infringe on my rights. Not just my Second Amendment rights, but my First, Fourth, Fifth, and any others that might come into play when I and others are interacting with law enforcement.

What exactly is Mayor Fischer imagining? Well, here’s what he has planned for Louisville.

The plan proposes quadrupling the public safety spending, on programs to fight crime that don’t necessarily involve police. That accounts for about $19 million of the budget. Members reacted to the plan Fischer’s office touted as “bullish,” saying they will review the budget carefully because “the devil is in the details.”

Fischer began his address with a quote from Pres. Joe Biden, saying “Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget.” He announced some $400 million in federal relief funding Louisville will receive, beginning May 10. He then proposed how to spend the city’s money. There’s much focus on racial equity and curbing crime.

Various expenditures would include assistance for small businesses, help for minority-owned businesses and business development in West Louisville, an expansion of Waterfront Park into West Louisville, broadband internet expansion, expanding the Office of Equity, more affordable housing funding, and much more. Fischer hopes to give a hand-up to Black businesses, pushing toward equity across the city.

He also hopes to increase public safety funding considerably. That doesn’t just mean dollars given to law enforcement. He calls it “re-imagining public safety,” investing in crime interventions, prevention, mental health resources, and other things like establishing the Office of the Inspector General for the new Civilian Review Board, Group Violence Intervention (GVI), and the Pivot to Peace program in hospitals.

Note the absence of any new gun control laws in Fischer’s plan. My guess is that’s the result of Kentucky’s firearm preemption laws and not any newfound respect for the Second Amendment on the part of the mayor, who’s long advocated for new restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms. In 2019, Fischer spoke with NPR about a letter he sent to then-president Donald Trump urging him to get behind a number of anti-gun proposals.

CHANG: On what can be done – I read your letter – you advocate for expanding background checks, passing red flag laws, a ban on assault weapons and on high-capacity magazines. I just want to get real with you. Do you actually see a Republican-led Senate passing all of that, even an assault weapons ban?

FISCHER: It’s possible. Look. As I said, these aren’t radical ideas. And not only is this the platform of the United States Conference of Mayors, it’s also the platform of the Major Cities Police Chiefs. So think about this. This is law enforcement saying this. This is the people that are closest to their citizens – the mayors – saying this is what your citizens are demanding. So if people can abandon this as a partisan issue and embrace it as a human issue, as an American issue, to say, this is so far out of whack that this is not normal.

As Fischer told NPR a couple of years ago, the ideas in his letter were also endorsed by the United States Conference of Mayors; the same group getting ready to “reimagine public safety” in a couple of weeks.

Something tells me that, in addition to stumping for “gun violence prevention” programs that don’t involve law enforcement, these mayors are going to once again throw their weight behind creating brand new criminal offenses out of our civil rights. Sell a gun to your neighbor without putting her through a background check first? Let’s make that a federal offense punishable by a year in prison. Caught with a 20-round magazine? Why not turn that into a five-year felony? Own an AR-15 when the government told you to hand it over? How about a ten-year sentence for violating the National Firearms Act?

I truly hope I’m wrong, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ imagination doesn’t run wild in terms of curtailing our Second Amendment rights, but I’m not holding my breath. There are too many mayors convinced that we can ban and arrest our way to safety to give me any confidence in them adopting an approach to reduce violent crime and increase public safety that doesn’t involve trying to turn our rights into criminal offenses.