On Jan. 13, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa reiterated his support for gun control legislation in the form of a federal assault weapons ban on the CBS Sunday morning news program “Face the Nation.”
Villaraigosa joins a chorus of politicians from the state of California advocating for stricter national laws and the creation of a federal gun owner registration database to give the United States government increased authority over the regulation of firearms.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced new gun control legislation only one week after the Connecticut school shooting in December to require the registration of all “grandfathered” firearms that are legally possessed prior to any enactment date of the potential law.
During his “Face the Nation” appearance, Villaraigosa stated his unequivocal stance and previous legislative work in favor of new gun control laws while he was Speaker of the California State Assembly, by saying:
“I do believe that we need an assault weapons ban. In California, I was one of the authors of the assault weapons ban. It's important. I think we need to ban high-capacity magazines. We need universal background checks.”
As a prominent liberal Democrat politician completing the remaining months of his final term in office in a city with an overwhelmingly progressive electorate, Villaraigosa’s support for gun control fits with both his ideology and any of his future political career plans.
Villaraigosa’s shocking lack of priorities and ignorance when it comes to the public safety of his own constituents – similar to the same ideological blindness of Sen. Dianne Feinstein - is dangerously appalling to Los Angeles residents.
As the chief executive officer of the city of Los Angeles since 2005, Mayor Villaraigosa has presided over an alarming atrocity of epic dimensions for an urban area; an evolving crisis involving thousands of fatalities every year with heavily regulated government-registered “weapons” that do not involve guns.
“L.A.’s Bloody Hit-and-Run Epidemic” was an investigative exposé reported by the L.A. Weekly one week before the Connecticut school shootings in December 2012. The subtitle of the cover story investigation by journalist Simone Wilson accurately describes the urban catastrophe as: “The city ignores a crisis of car-as-weapon crime in the streets.”
Widespread wave of hit-and-run fatalities
The Los Angeles Police Department records an astounding 20,000 hit-and-run crashes every year, which is a staggering 48 percent of all annual vehicle accidents in the city, according to the L.A. Weekly investigation. The percent of hit-and-run collisions nationwide are approximately 11 percent of all crashes while in Los Angeles they account for almost half, nearly five times the national statistics.
Hit-and-run crashes resulting in major injuries and fatalities are an astonishing thirteen times the number of homicides in Los Angeles – reported at 298 for 2012 – as reported in the L.A. Weekly investigation:
“According to data collected by the state, some 4,000 hit-and-run crashes a year inside L.A. city limits, including cases handled by LAPD, California Highway Patrol and the L.A. County Sheriff, resulted in injury and/or death. Of those, according to a federal study, about 100 pedestrians died; the number of motorists and bicyclists who die would push that toll even higher.”
For Villaraigosa and his political legacy, the truly embarrassing fact is that the L.A. Weekly writes, “a hit-and-run crime wave that has marched on for years while mayors, chiefs of police and other city leaders ignore it or remain ignorant of it.”
While some may quibble and engage in hair-splitting rhetoric about the comparison of vehicular crime to gun-related killings, to the victims and their families in Los Angeles the ultimate result is the same: the untimely and tragic death of a human being.
The difference between hit-and-run casualties and firearms is found more in the statistics than in the tools of destruction. In Los Angeles, 4,000 were killed or maimed by hit-and-run drivers while the LAPD reports only 836 gang-related victims were injured or died from gunshots in 2012. Yet Mayor Villaraigosa goes on national television to politicize guns while remaining completely silent on his record of abysmal failure to protect Los Angeles residents from the hit-and-run crime wave on his city’s streets.
Hit-and-run criminals engage in a willful and voluntary act to get away with injuring or killing their victims. The conscious decision to leave the human being they crashed into bleeding and broken in a car or on a city street without even making sure if they are alive or dead is an equivalent behavior and projection of criminal power to that which animates a gunman engaged in aggravated assault or murder. As another L.A. Weekly article points out, hit-and-run criminals leave the scene and are seldom ever caught. Therefore, there is no way to verify how many were actual premeditated acts of murder.
Villaraigosa’s appearance on national television to push for more new gun control laws directly supports the L.A. Weekly’s contention that he has been asleep at the wheel with regards to public safety in Los Angeles by ignorantly pursuing issues that suit his political agenda.
“Although Villaraigosa and Beck take credit for low levels of violent crime that today match those of the idyllic 1950s, it seems impossible that half of all auto crashes in 1956 were hit-and-runs, or that thousands of people were being left injured, or worse, on the city's streets each year,” the L.A. Weekly laments, before criticizing the mayor by continuing, ”the current crop of City Hall politicians have backed major and costly efforts to fight gang crime and graffiti but have no visible campaign aimed at tackling what appears to be a citywide morality crisis and crime wave.”
Gun registration and fundamentally dishonest politicians
Automobiles are registered and carefully regulated by the state of California, drivers are licensed by the state, and drivers’ photographs and home addresses are accessible by LAPD, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and the California Highway Patrol. In addition, the federal government has access to unique vehicle identification numbers for nearly every automobile ever manufactured.
In most instances drivers are insured with private automobile insurance companies that could provide investigators with any claims information, specifically regarding auto body repair or comprehensive collision claims in the wake of an accident. Unless cash is paid out-of-pocket, hit-and-run drivers would have to make false damage claims to get their vehicle – which is also potentially fateful criminal evidence – repaired before authorities tracked them down.
Even with all those tools, politicians like Villaraigosa and his city government still cannot locate or prosecute these criminals who are registered, licensed, and regulated, nor have they shown the ability to play any meaningful role in minimizing the epidemic of hit-and-run killings.
Indeed, the hit-and-run homicide has replaced the drive-by shooting as the violent crime of choice on the streets of Los Angeles.
Like so many of Mayor Villaraigosa’s other dishonest statements – and stunning silence in an effort to obfuscate – his Sunday morning television appearance to politicize the gun control issue is a betrayal of the true public safety concerns for the people of Los Angeles.
Steven Holmes is the Los Angeles Political Buzz Examiner.