Op-Ed: Midterm Elections Could Shake California as Citizens Respond to Crime Wave
Over the last two years, turmoil created by the COVID-19 pandemic, ill-conceived public policies and rising crime rates has shaken many Californians’ sense of control over their communities and their personal safety. The 2022 Congressional midterm elections are on the horizon and new polling shows that a majority of state voters – 68 percent – believe crime is a top issue. It’s clear this debate will play a key role in the future control of Congress, where California will play host to at least eight key U.S. House races.
This new polling reflects a reality backed by statistics from the FBI, which recently reported the U.S. murder rate is the highest it’s been in 25 years. In California’s major cities, homicides rose by roughly 17 percent in the last year alone. Homicides in Los Angeles reached the highest number it’s seen in 15 years. Groups of criminals are smashing through business windows like it’s an everyday affair. Robbers are harassing people on the street, even following some home. And the tragic case of a UCLA graduate student who was fatally stabbed at her workplace in a random act of violence further illustrates the grim reality behind our nation’s rising crime.
Unfortunately, rather than acknowledging this stark reality, many California politicians are doubling down on failed policies that target law-abiding citizens instead of criminals. In San Jose for example, it received national attention this month when the City Council voted to make San Jose the first in the nation to require lawful gun owners to pay for liability insurance while also imposing a new annual tax on anyone who owns a firearm. This radical new proposal appears to be moving forward despite the lack of any evidence that it would actually deter criminals or lower crime rates. It is yet another example of misguided policymaking that punishes law-abiding Americans for owning a legal firearm, instead of targeting criminals who are actually threatening the safety of our communities.
The lunacy has unfortunately extended to the state level where lawmakers have passed, and Governor Newsom has signed into law, Assembly Bill 173, which violates gun owners’ privacy by allowing the state to disclose their sensitive personal information to universities and other organizations. And in another recent move spearheaded by Governor Newsom, Californians may soon bring civil lawsuits against gun manufacturers when their legal products are used in the commission of crimes by criminals.
Again, there is no evidence that any of these policies will actually lower crime, yet law-abiding Californians are being punished for the actions of criminals.
California also refuses to allow responsibly armed Americans who are visiting from out-of-state to protect themselves even if they are licensed to carry in their home state. While California leadership believes this will reduce crime, states like Idaho are proof this theory is wrong. Idaho recognizes CCW licenses of out-of-state, law-abiding citizens so they can protect themselves at all times. While the murder rate in California rises to the highest level we’ve seen in over a decade, Idaho has one of the lowest crime rates in the nation. In fact, data from 2021 showed the crime rate dropped for four consecutive years.
Yet, even as political leaders in Sacramento, San Jose and elsewhere prefer to close their eyes and ears to what’s happening in their state, the citizens who will vote in this year’s elections have been sending a very different message. Over the last two years, record numbers of Californians have been choosing to become their family’s first line of defense, with firearm sales increasing 66 percent.
What’s also notable is that while the issue of gun ownership has long been pegged in the national media as involving and benefitting only one group – white, conservative males – the demographics of gun ownership is genderless and diverse, with the greatest rise in gun owners being among women and minorities.
The reality is that all Americans, regardless of background, race, age, or socioeconomic status are concerned about their personal safety. Since the beginning of 2019, close to half of all new U.S. gun buyers have been women. Meanwhile, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) has reported that African-Americans have made up the largest segment of new buyers. Ownership of firearms among Black Americans increased 58.2 percent through the first six months of 2020 and remained steady in 2021 – outpacing every other demographic. The data proves gun ownership is genderless and diverse. For many Americans, contrary to what the media portrays, the reason to become a responsible gun owner is driven by the desire for self-protection amidst turmoil and rising crime.
Moving forward, politicians should be responding to these facts by enacting legislation that will actually support citizens’ right to invest in their personal safety by carrying a firearm. For one, passing National Concealed Carry Reciprocity will allow law-abiding gun owners to travel in and out of the state with their firearm without the burden of unknowingly breaking the law if they cross state lines.
The issue of crime is one that will undoubtedly guide voters’ decision-making at the polls, with the potential to shift the future of Congressional control entirely. If candidates fail to make it known how they will meaningfully address crime and safety, they should expect voters to make their voices heard at the ballot box.
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