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Platitudes and Performance On May 14th

On May 14th, within hours of the terrible shooting in Buffalo, NY, LA District Attorney George Gascon took to social media to express his condolences and outrage at what authorities in Buffalo described as an act of “pure evil.” Mr. Gascon’s comments seemed to align with the platitudes that typically pour in from public officials all over the country after similar tragedies. Then, one remembers that this is the same District Attorney who announced moments after being sworn into office that he would no longer file sentencing enhancements, including hate crimes allegations and gun allegations. In his statement related to the Buffalo shooting, Gascon demanded: “immediate change” to our gun laws. He decried the ubiquity of guns and the instability they cause in society. Yet, he is the only District Attorney in California history ever to announce that he would not charge criminals with the use of guns even during the commission of serious and violent crimes. Gascon proudly took to the podium after his first 100 days in office to take credit for saving taxpayers money by not charging felons with sentencing enhancements, including the use of guns. So, should we believe George Gascon when he says, “[M}y heart breaks for the victims in Buffalo … We cannot keep offering mere thoughts and prayers.”

The answer is no! It is hard to trust anything Gascon says. The hypocrisy of his words relative to his policies is stunning. In his message regarding the Buffalo shooting, Gascon said, “Racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and other forms of hate have motivated too many of these recent mass attacks,” still if it were not for the Anti-Defamation League, LGBTQ, African American, Hispanic, and Asian communities all pushing back on his decision to eliminate hate crime prosecutions, Los Angeles would be the only county in California to not enforce those essential laws. Moreover, of the 741 non-police-related deaths in Los Angeles County in the past 12 months, 85% were African American and Latino victims. Guns killed more than 65%, yet Gascon still refuses to charge the state’s toughest gun use enhancement, even in murder cases. How can one man sanctimoniously claim that we need to do more to stop the scourge of gun-fueled hate crimes while at the same time allowing criminals to go uncharged with the state’s toughest penalties when they use guns to kill so many African Americans and Latinos.

What happened in Buffalo is one of a growing list of tragic reminders of why we have stringent laws against hate-motivated attacks with guns. California is the most heavily gun-regulating state in the country. Still, it means little if the District Attorney of the largest jurisdiction in the state unilaterally decides not to punish criminals for shootings in accordance with state law.

John McKinney is a 24-year veteran of the District Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles County. John has prosecuted serious and violent crimes for the past 17 years. The views expressed are those of Mr. McKinney and do not reflect the views of his office or employer.

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