There’s a reason for that old journalism mantra “if it bleeds, it leads.” Most people are concerned about their own safety, for one thing, and are more likely to read about threats that might affect them. And crime is (superficially) straightforward and easy to understand. Good guys versus bad guys.
The characteristics that explain media’s focus on crime also apply to political campaigns, particularly at the local level. Here in Indianapolis, the Republican candidate for mayor has run a campaign almost entirely focused on the incumbent’s asserted inability to reduce criminal activity, insisting that he–the Republican–“has a plan.” (Presumably, the incumbent doesn’t?)
This campaign strategy–and the interminable advertisements hawking it–really annoys me.
For one thing, it ignores the fact that criminal activity in Indianapolis is hardly unique; our problems mirror national ones. This single-minded and exaggerated focus on crime also ignores the multiple other areas of governance that a mayor is responsible for providing. (Listening to those ads, you’d be forgiven for thinking this guy is running for sheriff, not mayor.)
Of course, the campaign in Indianapolis is pretty standard GOP strategy. The “law and order” party (a label that–given MAGA and Donald Trump–makes sentient Americans laugh) continues to scream about crime–which it almost always attributes to urban areas. (After all, Blue cities are where most of those scary Black folks live…)
Republican politicians often treat it as an established fact: Where they are in power, crime is low. Where Democrats are in power, crime is high.
“Republican-run cities are doing very nicely because they arrest people when you have crimes,” Donald Trump told Tucker Carlson last week.
“The cities and these left-wing states allowing criminals to run wild on our streets, that doesn’t work,” Ron DeSantis, Florida’s governor, said in March, citing New York in particular.
But party rule does not drive crime. Consider DeSantis’s state, Florida. Its homicide rate was roughly 50 percent higher than New York’s in 2021. Florida’s two most populous cities, Jacksonville and Miami, each had a homicide rate more than double New York City’s last year, even though both had Republican mayors.
As the article points out, the data shows no connection between political partisanship and crime. “To put it another way, prominent Republicans are misrepresenting the country’s crime problem.”
The linked article referenced a number of reasons for America’s stubborn crime rates, especially the widespread availability of guns.
Access to guns is another major factor, particularly for murders. Guns make any conflict more likely to escalate into deadly violence, and they can embolden criminals. On this issue, there is a partisan divide — Democrats are more comfortable regulating firearms — and that could help explain higher levels of violence in Republican states, especially in the South. It can also explain violence in cities, which get a lot of guns from Southern states with laxer laws.
Indiana’s legislature, which is dominated by rural interests and which includes a number of members who are widely considered “gun nuts,” has ensured that the Hoosier state’s gun laws are as lax as those of any Southern state, if not more.
Mike Leppert recently had a column on the costs of that laxity. In the wake of the last mass shooting, he wrote
We don’t ever talk about what it all costs. No, in most circles, it doesn’t get a mention. An accounting of the cost of guns is rarely undertaken, and when it is, the numbers are so shocking and enormous, the study usually falls victim to the post-truth era in which we live.
After confirming that in the year since “permitless” carry became the law in Indiana, gun related crime increased, Leppert wrote
As reported by Casey Smith of the Indiana Capital Chronicle on Aug. 21, accidental shootings are on the rise. Smith wrote: “Since July 2022, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) has been tracking accidental shootings, specifically. IMPD found non-fatal, accidental shootings more than doubled in February 2023 compared to February averages in the last 5 years. There were as many as 75 such incidents for the last half of 2022, and more than 75% of those were self-inflicted.”
There’s a cost to each one of them. Medical costs. Emergency responses. Productivity loss….
Everytown Research and Policy published its sweeping report on the cost of guns in July of last year. The number? $557 billion annually, or nearly $1,700 for every resident in America. Not every gun owner. Not every NRA member. Every resident….
What does culture get for this Faustian bargain? Gun owners get freedom. They get a false sense of safety and security. They get identity.
The rest of us just get the tab.
And Republican candidates supported by the NRA get dishonest talking points…..Comments