Are Democrats backing off on gun control?

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

Democrats aren’t likely to be confused for a pro-Second Amendment party anytime soon. While you sometimes have the odd pro-gun Dem floating around the political pool, they’re the exception, not the rule.

In the past, members of the party have latched onto every “mass shooting” to advance their anti-gun policies.

Sometimes, it even works.

Yet some seem to feel that’s just not really happening as much these days.

AFTER A MASS shooting on a subway train in Brooklyn, New York, last Tuesday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams vowed to double the number of subway cops. He had already sent an additional 1,000 officers belowground in February, in response to reports of crimes on the subway, to patrol platforms and expel homeless people from the transit system.

Adams’s deference to more policing as a salve for gun violence may stem from his own history in the New York Police Department, but it also fits him into a pattern now evident within the national Democratic Party. Where Democrats once reacted to gun violence — especially mass shootings — by calling for stricter firearms regulations, today they are increasingly turning to greater funding for the police.

Amid a spike in gun violence, Democrats have blamed progressive members of the party who favor more substantive police reform for risking midterm chances and alienating voters. “With all the respect in the world for Cori Bush, that is not the position of the Democratic Party,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in February, referring to the Missouri Democrat in her role as one of the few members of Congress who has maintained calls to defund the police. The speaker instead lauded Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y., for “saying that defund the police is dead.”

While nationwide calls to reform policing led lawmakers to kneel wearing Kente cloth in 2020 and spurred the failed George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, they haven’t substantively changed the national party’s policing agenda or made any major differences in policy. At the local level, cities that reallocated largely insignificant portions of their police budgets in 2020 have mostly added that funding back, and then some.

In other words, rather than tripping over themselves to push for gun control that won’t pass, Democrats are trying to take an approach that probably will.

The truth of the matter, though, is that gun control has never actually reduced crime. Studies that claim otherwise are easily disputed and use some rather bizarre methodology anyway. Meanwhile, we can look at how federal gun control laws have had zero impact on crime over the years as evidence that it doesn’t work.

But policing does work.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are legitimate issues with policing and criminal justice in this country. We need to address those, to be sure, so that everyone is better protected by law enforcement.

Yet defunding the police was an idiotic idea from the start. Now, people are waking up to that as crime soars and voters–yes, the people who Democrats need to vote for them–demand more police.

The vocal activists who called for both defunding law enforcement and greater gun control didn’t make much logical sense.

While I don’t expect Democrats to completely abandon gun control as an issue anytime soon, focusing on policing is probably the smartest thing they could do amid soaring violent crime. They just have to hope voters don’t remember how many in that part wanted police defunded.