Change: Cleveland Democrats Downplay Gun Control As Solution To Violent Crime

(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

With very few exceptions, the Democrats vying to become the next mayor of Cleveland, Ohio aren’t talking up their support the Second Amendment, but they’re also not saying much about the supposed need for more gun control laws. That’s a striking change from what we’ve seen from current mayor Frank Jackson, who’s not only been a vocal supporter of gun control legislation, but has actually tried on several occasions to implement local gun restrictions in violation of state law.

Jackson’s not running for re-election this time around, however, and the Democrats who want to replace him appear to be focused more on targeting violent criminals than legal gun owners. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer recently asked six of the Democratic candidates how they would address the city’s rising homicide rate, and not one of them mentioned the need for new gun control laws at the local, state, or federal level.

Instead, most of the candidates say they want to focus on those responsible for acts of violence through targeted policing and community intervention efforts like the “Cure Violence” program that relies on violence interrupters and other non-law enforcement strategies to prevent violent crimes from taking place.

However, there was one candidate who was willing to speak up in favor of the right of self-defense. While City Councilman Basheer Jones also wants to invest in pay increases for local police and equipment upgrades, he also believes that creating a culture of responsible gun ownership is key to reducing violence.

Unlike many of his peers in the Democratic Party, Jones has actively promoted concealed carry as a means of personal safety for residents. In October 2020, he announced he would help provide training for women in how to properly handle firearms for self-protection.

“It’s not just about guns, but the improper usage of guns,” said Jones. “My goal, and we got registered, over 800 women reached out to me and we helped them with the help of CCW (carrying a concealed weapon) instructors across the city and we helped those women get their CCWs,” Jones said. “I can tell you, our city will feel much better when a woman feels safe. We will never be successful as a city when a woman, every time they leave the house they feel like this could be their last time.”

That’s commendable, and it would be great if other candidates were as proactive at promoting responsible gun ownership as Jones has been.

However, we are talking about Democrats here, so the fact that they aren’t talking up gun control as their solution to violent crime is almost as noteworthy as it would be if they were all encouraging residents to get their carry license. Even former congressman Dennis Kucinich, who’s probably the most left-leaning of the bunch running for mayor, isn’t stumping for gun control on the campaign trail.

Kucinich’s primary campaign plank has been a promise to hire 400 more police officers and 100 safety experts trained in crisis intervention.

It has been contentious among the other candidates, who say Kucinich is overpromising, pointing to a similar campaign pledge he made during his first campaign in 1977 to hire more police. By the end of his term in 1979 – exacerbated by his high-profile refusal to sell Muny Light to private interests – Kucinich had proposed laying off 400 police officers and firefighters, and there were fewer police than when he started.

Kucinich has brushed off the line of questioning and said conditions in 1977 were far different from the present.

Along with increased pay and equipment, Kucinich said he would create a program that provides cadets with a college education, provided they stay on the force for five years. He also favors paying a premium to attract officers back from the suburbs, possibly through housing benefits, mortgage assistance or giving people a bonus.

Just a few years ago Kucinich was stumping for a state-wide ban on so-called assault weapons, but in his current campaign he’s keeping mum about the need for new gun control laws.

Now, does this mean that Democrats as a national party are going to start distancing themselves from the gun control ideology that’s been a key part of their platform for decades? No, at least not yet. But it is worth noting that even previously ardent supporters of restricting the right to keep and bear arms don’t want to talk those ideas on the campaign trail in Cleveland this year. Instead, they’re talking about building up the city’s police force, focusing on violent actors, and at least in one case, encouraging residents to obtain a concealed carry license so that they don’t have to fear for their lives when they step outside their door. This is a step in the right direction, and a sign that at least some Democrats feel comfortable putting some distance between themselves and the gun control lobby that’s still eager to court their support.

Oct 21, 2021 6:30 PM ET