If you needed any more evidence that the Democratic embrace of the Defund the Police movement is in full retreat, look no further than the re-election campaign of Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. Four years ago, when Villanueva first ran for the office, he portrayed himself as a stalwart progressive who would prevent the sheriff’s office from cooperating with ICE in enforcing immigration law and would work to end cash bail for most offenders.
Now, Villanueva’s running for re-election, and his campaign messaging has undergone a remarkable shift from what voters heard in 2018.
“We’re running against the woke left, and we’re going to win,” said Javier Gonzalez, a campaign consultant for Villanueva. “It’s going to be a revolt of the regular people who want things done.”
On today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co we’re taking a closer look at Villanueva’s attempted makeover and why it’s indicative of the challenges that Democrats face in terms of connecting with an increasingly skeptical electorate, even in places as far to the left as Los Angeles.
As the Los Angles Times points out, one of the areas where Villanueva has shifted, at least verbally, is on carry permits. Los Angeles County, home to 10-million people, typically has about 200 or so active carry permits. Villanueva, however, has been trumpeting the fact that he’s issuing far more permits than his predecessors.
The sheriff’s determined effort to push through a fivefold increase in the number of concealed weapon permits issued in the county has confounded onetime supporters.
Previous sheriffs issued few of the permits, which are meant primarily for people who face clear dangers to their safety. Saying those before him kept the bar to receive them too high, Villanueva says more people carrying concealed handguns will be an effective countermeasure to rising crime and efforts on the left to reduce police funding.
“Because we have less cops on the street, more crooks, less consequences — you know, what could go wrong with that combination, right?” Villanueva said last month. “We’re recognizing that the threat to the residents is increasing. So we’re responding accordingly.”
On his online broadcasts, Villanueva often gives boastful updates on the progress he’s made on his plan to quintuple the number of concealed weapon permits his department issues.
“We have now issued more CCWs than the last three sheriffs combined,” he crowed in April, when the number of permits he had issued or was close to issuing stood at 920.
Villanueva’s talking a good game on concealed carry, but 920 carry permits is nothing to crow about, especially in a county as big as L.A. Heck, 15,000 Indianans applied for their carry license in one week earlier this month, and the vast majority of them are going to be approved, because Indiana views the right of self-defense and the right to bear arms as reason enough for a license to be issued.
The chief says he’s “responding accordingly” to the increase in violent crime. How about responding to the requirements of the Constitution instead. I realize that even 920 permits is enough to make some of Villanueva’s previous far-Left supporters recoil in outraged horror, but as long as Villanueva is still requiring applicants to demonstrate “good cause” to carry a firearm, he’s not doing nearly enough to portray himself as some pro-2A defender of law and order.
Villanueva’s still a Democrat, and Los Angeles is still Los Angeles (though Los Locos would be so much more appropriate), so I understand the political realities that the sheriff is facing in his re-election bid. He, like other Democrats who can read the room, are well aware that the public is sick and tired of the never-ending wokeness of his party’s base, and he’s trying to moderate both his positions and his persona accordingly. If he were running in Orange County and not Los Angeles, maybe he’d even be touting his own “shall issue” policy for carry permits, but in Los Angeles this is probably as far as he can go without being branded a tool of the “gun lobby.”
Will we start to see other Democrats begin to moderate their own gun control messaging in the near future? Just this past weekend we heard NYC Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams say that Democrats shouldn’t be focused on things like banning “assault weapons”… though he says that’s because they should focus more on handguns instead. I think it’s likely that swing-state and swing-district Democrats end up adopting some version of the Democrats’ new talking points; Biden’s focus on “rogue gun dealers,” Adams’ desire to more heavily regulate handguns, and perhaps even Villanueva’s voiced support for self-defense
The fact that Villanueva is touting the increase in carry permits is worth noting as it relates to Democratic strategy and the role that gun issues will play in the 2022 elections, but from a practical standpoint it’s still far more sizzle than steak, and that holds true for the broader messaging that will be coming from the Left as they try to turn their polling on crime and guns right-side up. As long as the Democrats act to target gun owners, the firearms industry, and the Second Amendment while excusing violent criminals, it really doesn’t matter what they say. What they’re doing is of much greater consequence.