On February 14, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) marked the one-year anniversary of a horrific school shooting by threatening that President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to secure funding for a border wall could be used as precedent for future gun control.
Calling the 2018 massacre of 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida “another manifestation of the epidemic of gun violence in America,” Pelosi remarked, “That’s a national emergency. Why don’t you declare that emergency, Mr. President?”
“A Democratic president,” she threatened, “can do that.”
By painting the tragic Parkland shooting as a failure of gun control, however, Pelosi disregards the indisputable fact that the shooter’s rampage was enabled by years-long, system-wide failures of policy and personnel.
Andrew Pollack, the father of shooting victim Meadow Pollack, is on a campaign to hold those who failed the Parkland victims accountable. This includes the resource officer and deputies whose inadequate response allowed the shooting spree to continue for 11 long minutes, the FBI officials who ignored a tip about the shooter’s intentions just over a month prior to the attack, the Broward County superintendent whose “Promise” program kept students’ criminal activities from being reported to police, and the school officials, mental health providers, and officials from the Broward Sheriff’s Office who ignored a series of red flags, not to mention murderer’s lengthy history of violence and mental health issues.
These Tragedies Happened Despite Legal Barriers
Judging by the sheer number of pending legal claims against Broward Country Public Schools (103 as of December 2018), Pollack is not the only parent of a victim or survivor to find that fault extends beyond the shooter and his weapon. The families of two Parkland victims are also filing suit against the manufacturer of Cruz’s AR-15, and the store where he purchased it.
On Friday, just one day after Pelosi threatened future gun control initiatives, America experienced another preventable and horrific shooting in Aurora, Illinois. After he was fired from his job, Gary Martin used a pistol he unlawfully possessed to shoot employees in his workplace. Martin killed six employees, and wounded five of the police officers who responded to the scene before he was killed by police.
As a convicted felon, Martin should not have possessed a weapon. When applying for an Illinois Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card in January 2014, he lied about his previous felony conviction for aggravated assault. After he purchased his pistol in March, Martin also applied for a concealed carry permit. When the fingerprinting process revealed Martin’s criminal history in Mississippi, police turned down Martin’s application, revoked his FOID card, and informed him that he must relinquish his weapon within 48 hours. Instead, Martin kept the pistol.
Non-compliance with police orders regarding weapons and FOID turnover is not uncommon. In 2018, 10,818 FOID cards were revoked by the Illinois State Police, who admitted on Monday that “in most instances” a weapon and official record are not returned. Law enforcement is able to petition a judge for a search warrant to retrieve guns that are not turned over, but according to Illinois law, they are not required to do so.
In Aurora, existing gun laws failed. In Parkland, a host of authorities and policies failed. Democrats are shortsighted if they simply believe that creating new limits on gun ownership will increase Americans’ safety.
Pelosi’s threat of future gun control initiatives does not stand alone. During the 2018 midterm elections, more candidates aired “spots promot[ing] gun control than oppos[ing] it.” In the wake of the Aurora attack, Democratic presidential candidates are loudly decrying gun violence, and advocating for stricter gun control measures.
Worth noting, however, is that Democrats have also been notably two-faced on gun control. Last Wednesday, while the House Judiciary Committee passed a bill to require background checks on every gun sale or transfer, Democrats rejected Republicans’ efforts to add an amendment that would ensure law enforcement is notified “when an individual attempting to purchase a firearm fails a federal background check.”
Most Americans Favor Legal Gun Ownership
A majority of Americans do not agree with Democrats’ gun violence demagoguery. According to a March 2018 poll, 58 percent of Americans believe that gun ownership “increase[s] public safety by allowing law-abiding citizens to protect themselves.”
James Craig, who returned to his native Detroit as its chief of police in June 2013, believes in the strength of a legally armed populace. After working as a police officer for nearly three decades in Los Angeles, “where ‘it took an act of Congress’ to get permission to carry a gun,” Craig transferred to Portland, Maine. There, he discovered a vastly safer city, and one where gun ownership was common. It was in Portland that Craig realized “the effect…good Americans who are armed can have on reducing violence.”
Prior to Craig’s arrival, Detroit was among the most violent cities in the country. According to FBI statistics, 80 in 1000 Detroit residents “became victims of violent or property crime each year.” In 2012, 386 criminal homicides had been reported in the city. To bring down crime rates, the new chief of police urged Detroit residents to legally and safely arm themselves.
In 2014, Craig’s department issued 1,100 handgun permits. That year, the number of home invasions decreased by 38 percent, with the numbers of shootings and robberies likewise decreasing. Of the 1,800 felons queried in a 2015 survey, 57 percent identified their biggest fear as “armed citizens.”
Since Craig took over the department, Detroit has experienced “double-digit drops” in “nonfatal shootings, robberies, and carjackings.” Although the city’s levels of violence still leave much to be desired, in 2017, Detroit recorded its “lowest number of homicides since 1966.”
Craig believes a conversation surrounding guns should not be about gun control, but “crime control.” As he explains, “individuals who are criminally inclined…when in possession of a weapon, create the problems.”
Before Democrats look to new measures of gun control, they should concern themselves with the enforcement of existing gun laws, keeping weapons out of the hands of criminals, and holding accountable institutions and policies which allow threats to go undetected.
If Democrats impede law-abiding Americans from arming themselves to protect their fellow citizens, and themselves, then the only people with access to weapons will be those who purchase them illegally, with criminal intent.