Do you want to understand what defunding the police really means? Just look at the looting and violence that happened when police were ordered to stand down during recent riots.
Liberal Democrat council members voted unanimously on Friday to defund the police and have opposed private citizens carrying guns for protection. But perhaps Minneapolis City Council members actually do understand the safety concerns of their city’s citizens. After all, they have a solution when it comes to protecting themselves: private security guards.
Indeed, the council has spent $63,000 over the last three weeks to provide security for three members. That is $7,000 a week per council member. The mayor has his own security detail provided by the police department.
The city won’t release the names of the guarded council members, claiming that their identities aren’t public information because contracts for less than $175,000 typically do not need public approval from the council. The Minneapolis Police Department also refused to confirm whether any threats had been made against any council members.
If protection is really the goal, the secrecy seems counterintuitive. To deter attacks, it can be worth letting people know that you are well prepared to stop them. The secrecy seems to be more aimed at preventing resentment against the council members for their special treatment.
Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins claims that his transgender identity has put his safety in jeopardy since he first started campaigning. Furthermore, he is an outspoken advocate for police accountability. Jenkins’ concerns may be valid, but there are lots of non-politicians who also feel endangered. Many don’t have the means to escape the high-crime areas of the city.
The city council has been very vocal in its advocacy for strict gun control, supporting seemingly every gun control policy that has been put forward. These politicians prevent citizens from protecting themselves at a time when police protection cannot be depended on. Not everyone can afford to spend $7,000 a week on their own private security guards.
For three days, police in Minneapolis were ordered to stand down and watch as rioters destroyed their city. Sadly, so many of the victims of this violence have been black. Black store owners have lost their businesses, and many major chain stores have remained closed. In these heavily black areas, blacks will lose their jobs.
The violence in Minneapolis would have been even much worse if people hadn’t been able to use guns to defend themselves and their businesses. As Kyle Hooten reported in the Wall Street Journal, “African American owners of GM Tobacco told me they were armed and ready to protect their business — and that they stand in solidarity with those who seek justice for [George] Floyd.” Visible from the front of the store was the police station of Minneapolis’ Third Precinct, which rioters set on fire.
If the Minneapolis city council members honestly believe that private security provides them with better protection than a police detail, why not make that option available for others? They could set up a voucher system whereby the money that would have been spent on the police could now be spent by people on their own security – perhaps even on guns or on classes from a shooting instructor.
People are tired of politicians giving themselves special treatment while claiming to understand the problems that ordinary Americans face. It’s true that politicians may understand what it’s like to be put at personal risk, and they should use that understanding to better empathize with their constituents’ desire for protection. A controversial politician should know as well as anyone why someone might want to carry a gun for self-defense.
* Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center.