In the wake of two recent mass shootings, at a private school in Nashville, Tennessee, and inside a bank in Louisville, Kentucky, familiar storylines have played out in cable news studios and throughout the Twittersphere. “The solution is obvious!” Gun control advocates tell us with authority. “We want more gun control, and we want it now!”

But another debate belies that demand, or rather reveals the harsh compensation that gun control advocates are imposing on victims of gun violence, thanks to another of their demands, namely police reform and jail time. For some time now, the gun control debate has been running alongside another debate about the proper role of policing and incarceration in response to rising crime, and many of the prominent voices calling for stronger gun regulation strict in the former debate are also fine -Familiar voices pushing to reduce the power of law enforcement institutions in the latter.

But you can’t simply demand that people give up their guns and the police be stripped of power to protect them from criminals. It is impossible to square the calls for greater gun control with the positions that many of the advocates making those calls hold on issues of surveillance and criminal justice. Existing gun regulations are essentially meaningless empty threats with no will to enforce them, and further restrictions would be rendered even more superfluous by efforts to actively undermine the very institutions charged with such enforcement.

However, the loudest voices on the left are calling for more gun control and less law enforcement. Many of the same people who say things like “we can’t get arrested or jailed for our violent crime problem” also seem to believe that we can somehow regulate our way out of shootings.

It’s a glaring inconsistency that very few seem interested in exploring.

one of his favorites rhetorical tactics Is for allege hypocrisy among those who do not support what they call “common sense” regulations on firearms. “One cannot be pro-life or support so-called parental rights and yet do nothing about it,” tweeted The New York Times’ Nikole Hannah-Jones of the 1619 Project. But Hannah-Jones’ argument can just as easily be applied to those pushing for more gun regulation in response to public mass shootings—well, those mass shootings that don’t take place in enclaves. urban areas with a high crime rate.

One might wonder how people like Hannah-Jones can express support for dismantling or dismantling the so-called “prison state,” which would leave would-be shooters on the street and exacerbate violence in vulnerable neighborhoods, then accuse others of not caring as much about gun violence.

The evidence that his blindness costs lives is everywhere. Take for example the 2021 shooting of Adam Toledo, a visibly armed 13-year-old boy who fled the scene of a shooting while still armed, and was shot by Chicago police officer Eric Stillman after turning to Stillman while throwing his gun behind a fence, hiding his hand from the officer’s view in the process.

A protester holds a sign that reads "defund
A protester holds a sign reading “Defund Police” outside Hennepin County Government Square during a rally against police brutality and racism on August 24, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images

While the loss of a young life is obviously tragic, Officer Stillman’s actions—running into the gunfire and chasing a suspected armed shooter through a dark alley—illustrated a heroic effort that placed the safety of the community on served above his. After all, pursuing an armed suspect can be deadly for a Chicago police officer, as it was for Chicago police officer Andrés Vásquez-Lasso, who was fatally shot earlier this year while pursuing an armed man after responding to a 911 call reporting an armed assault. The suspect in that case? An 18-year-old who was on the street despite being arrested on a gun charge last summer.

Yet Stillman’s exploits were met not with thanks, but with accusations of cold-blooded murder and outrage, voiced by so many voices, including Nikole Hannah-Jones, who have also condemned conservative opposition to their pet gun regulations. Stillman’s heroism was also met with a two-year investigation that just culminated in the presentation administrative positions before the Police Board and a recommendation that Stillman “be separated from the Chicago Police Department.”

No one seems to be asking the obvious questions here: How do you expect additional gun restrictions to crack down on shootings without any enforcement?

The inconsistency is outrageous. We know that in cities like Chicago, gun violence is disproportionately driven by repeat offenders with extensive criminal histories, or gang-involved youth without impulse control. Sure enough, a 2017 study of the University of Chicago Crime Laboratory reported that in 2015 and 2016, those accused of shootings or homicides had on average 12 previous arrests. The study also found that a quarter of homicide suspects in that city were between the ages of 10 and 19.

However, none of the shootings or murders committed by repeat offenders have inspired any policy changes aimed at doing more to incapacitate armed criminals. The legally justified execution of Adam Toledo, however, led to a new policy—one that restricts foot pursuits by police.

The message sent to the police by the treatment of Officer Stillman is clear. But so is the choice much of the American left must make: He can have effective gun control, or he can de-fang the police and continue to smooth over the criminal justice system. But you can’t have both.

Rafael A. Mangual is a Nick Ohnell Fellow and Chief of Public Safety and Policing Research at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. He is also the author of (In)Criminal Justice: where the drive for decarceration and depoliticization is wrong and who is harmed the most.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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