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The Hypocrisy of Republicans’ Anti-Crime Rhetoric

The Republican playbook rolls back existing firearm regulations and blocks new gun control laws. This will only worsen gun violence.

Written by Griffin Dix

In early March, President Joe Biden signed a $460 million spending bill that funded about half of the federal government and averted a government shutdown. But before Republicans agreed to support the spending bills, they demanded budget cuts to the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) by 6 percent and 7 percent, respectively. 

In addition to nullifying existing firearm regulations, the bill makes it even more difficult for officials to enforce gun laws.

That’s why Senator Chris Murphy, Connecticut Democrat, voted against it. The specific reason he gave for his opposition was the “terrible new gun policy rider that significantly rolls back the firearms background check system” buried in the bill. It allows veterans who were barred from buying guns by the Department of Veterans Affairs, for mental health reasons, to purchase them. “This provision,” Murphy said, “could result in 20,000 new seriously mentally ill individuals being able to buy guns each year [and] will be a death sentence for many.”

Even before the budget cut, ATF was too underfunded to do its job adequately. The agency aims to inspect each licensed gun dealer every three years. But in 2022, it inspected about 7,300 of them, only 9 percent of all gun dealers. At that rate, it would take ten years to inspect them all. This lax oversight is a reason that in 2022 alone, a total of 17,413 guns simply went missing—“lost or stolen” from federally licensed gun dealers, according to the agency. But guns are valuable and do not just vanish; it’s likely many were sold out the backdoor and used to commit crimes.

READ: How Bucks County’s PA House Lawmakers Voted on Three Gun Safety Bills

In 1994, the Brady Background Check law required federally licensed gun sellers to conduct background checks on buyers before making the sale. Since then, Congress has refused to pass any of the seventy bills introduced to require background checks on the gun sales made by private, unlicensed sellers, so it’s been up to the states to close that loophole. In the thirty states that do not require private gun sellers to conduct background checks on gun buyers, “prohibited persons” can easily bypass their prohibition. 

study conducted by Everytown for Gun Safety found that in 2022, the gun homicide rate in states with weak gun laws was almost twice as high as in states with strong laws. Their total gun death rate, including gun suicide, was 2.5 times higher. 

Former President Donald Trump and Republicans want to blame Biden for crime throughout the country. But under Biden, the murder rate in U.S. cities in 2023 fell by more than 12 percent—the largest decline on record—and violent crime is now near its lowest level in fifty years.

READ: Federal Court Says Give Domestic Violence Abusers Guns

The Republican playbook seems to be: Help cause a problem, then complain about the problem you helped create. And it works. The type of crime that people worry most about is violent gun crimes. Republicans are undermining the agencies that enforce our gun laws, consequently making it easier for people who are prohibited from purchasing and owning guns to obtain them. 

This is a dangerous game that puts Americans and their families at risk. Whenever they play it, it’s up to all of us to point it out.

This column was produced for Progressive Perspectives, a project of The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.

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