One of President Joe Biden’s past accomplishments was the passage of the 1994 crime bill. It sought to put an end to skyrocketing crime (which had actually started to decline several years earlier). Embedded within that bill, of course, was an assault weapon ban that did absolutely nothing for crime, but it was there. Thankfully, it sunset.
Anyway, with crime shooting upward (pun fully intended), it seems some people want to revisit the 90s. Well, parts of it anyway.
You see, Slate wants an all-new and improved crime bill.
It’s time for Democrats to propose a new crime bill.
No, not one like the original 1994 crime bill, famously spearheaded by President Joe Biden when he was a senator. While the role that piece of legislation played in fueling mass incarceration has often been exaggerated, its emphasis on building new prisons and nudging states to adopt harsher criminal penalties effectively doubled down on America’s unnecessarily punitive approach to justice and public safety.
Democrats don’t want to—and shouldn’t—do that. Instead, the party should cue up a more enlightened sequel full of popular ideas that will make communities safer without resorting to simply locking more Americans up. Think summer jobs for teens. Think funding for drug rehab centers. And yes, maybe think about more money for better-trained police.
The reasons why Democrats ought to act should be obvious to anybody who has been reading the news lately. After spiking to a height not seen in decades during 2020, America’s murder rate has continued to rise. The problem should not be exaggerated: While homicides are up, overall crime is not, and the pace of killings is still far below the crisis levels of the 1980s and early 1990s. It’s also possible we are living through the unruly aftereffects of the coronavirus crisis that will fade as the country gets back to normal. But lives are being lost while violence traumatizes families and whole communities where the sense of public safety is collapsing, especially poorer Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, where shootings are concentrated. In some cities, like Washington, the uptick is an acceleration of trends that began before COVID, suggesting the new climate of violence might linger. It makes moral sense to take federal action.
And it makes political sense, since there are signs that voters are becoming worried about the issue. For instance, the share of adults who believe that crime is a “very serious” problem is now at a 20-year high, according to a recent Washington Post–ABC News poll. This isn’t simply a panic among Trump-voting conservatives: This week in New York City, Brooklyn Borough President and former police officer Eric Adams sewed up the Democratic nomination for mayor after campaigning hard on public safety, which residents said was their No. 1 issue.
Most of their calls are touchy-feely things that liberals are convinced will make the world better, but won’t really do anything to stop crime in the here and now. For example, the author calls for more social workers. Yes, because the problem is that people shooting other folks for looking at them wrong really just didn’t get enough community outreach.
And, of course, we have the summer jobs thing, which is kind of ridiculous. Summer jobs may help stop some degree of petty crimes, but it’s unlikely to address the issues we’re seeing now.
But hey, what do you expect from Slate?
However, I have to give them credit. They also called for increased funding for police officers, which is a good thing. More evidence that “defund the police” is well and truly dead. They also called for increased funding for the ATF, which may not be popular with the average Bearing Arms reader, but will play well with the majority of Americans who think our current gun laws need to be enforced better.
Yet that’s pretty much the entirety of the proposals that aren’t based on left-wing moonbattery. There’s no mention of ending some of the bail reforms passed in several cities just before everything went insane. There’s also no mention of overriding local governments who have basically decriminalized certain lower-level crimes like shoplifting (see any video from San Francisco for examples).
The big takeaway here is that no one can pretend that crime isn’t out of control and everyone agrees something needs to be done about it. The problem, of course, is figuring out some common ground on what to do in order to address it. That’ll be the bigger challenge.