DFL gun laws won’t help end Twin Cities crime surge

In the early hours of Sunday morning, a gunfight broke out in a bar on St. Paul’s popular West 7th Avenue which left 14 people injured and 27-year-old Marquisha Wiley dead. The violent mayhem that has plagued Minneapolis is present in St. Paul, too.

The reasons for this aren’t mysterious: The quantity of policing in Minneapolis has plummeted since May last year. St. Paul police officers tell me that much the same has happened there. This is hardly surprising given the recently announced policy of Ramsey County Attorney John Choi to stop prosecuting felony cases where the driver was initially pulled over for a minor traffic violation. This has consequences: “The evidence that proactive policing works is pretty solid,” Justin Nix, a University of Nebraska Omaha criminologist, told Reuters recently, because more frequent stops make it riskier for people to carry guns illegally. As Reuters reported:

Fewer stops led to fewer people being searched for guns or drugs. The month before [George] Floyd was killed, [Minneapolis] police made 90 drug arrests, police records show. A year later, they made 28. The number of people charged with breaking gun laws dropped by more than half, even as shootings multiplied.

Common sense – and empirical evidence – say that if we want to curb this explosion in violence, we need more police.

This is a hard sell for the DFL officials who have run the Twin Cities for decades. A recent poll found that, while black voters in Minneapolis were opposed to the proposed charter amendment to replace the city’s police force by 47 percent to 42 percent — and black female voters were opposed by 50 percent to 37 percent — young, white liberals strongly support it.

This might explain St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter’s reaction to Sunday night’s shooting:

“Action hopefully one day will include action at the state legislature that would engage, frankly, some of the lawmakers who are hoping to troll St. Paul today,” said Carter, “But (who) are literally the hurdles that are blocking us to be able to pass the type of sensible gun control reforms that Minnesotans and Americans want to see happen.”

But Carter stresses that without stricter gun laws he believes shootings will continue both locally and nationally.

What sort of gun laws might he have in mind? In February last year, the Star Tribune reported:

Democrats and gun control advocates have spent years pushing for a bill to expand criminal background checks to cover most private firearms transfers, as well as for a second bill enacting a “red flag” law to let courts temporarily remove guns from people deemed a threat to themselves or others. The first bill passed the House 69-62, the second 68-62.

Both of these measures are directed at guns which are traded and owned legally. They will have absolutely no effect on guns which are traded and owned illegally, which is to say the overwhelming majority of guns used to commit crimes in Minnesota.

State law already prohibits you from owning a gun if you are a convicted felon (or convicted of a crime in another state punishable by one year and one day or more); have been convicted of, or have outstanding charges, for a felony crime of violence; are on probation for a felony conviction (not a crime of violence); have pending felony charges; have been convicted of domestic assault or an assault against a family or household member; and have been convicted of misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor drug charge within the last three years, among many other reasons. Almost all of those committing crimes with guns in Minnesota — including the three suspects in Sunday’s shooting — are already legally barred from owning them. The DFL’s proposed laws will do nothing whatsoever to stop them.

The public safety crisis in the Twin Cities is one of the most acute facing our state. In our search for solutions we must be guided by what works, not what the DFL’s leaders think they can sell to their base.