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California Governor Gavin Newsom, in the midst of a re-election campaign and reportedly weighing a future run for president, again hit out at fellow Democrats over what he claims is a messaging failure on the party’s handling of crime.
“We allow these culture wars to take shape, and we are consistently on the back end of them,” Mr Newsom said in an interview with MSNBC. “Eight of the top 10 states with the highest murder rates all are Republican states. How do Democrats not know that?”
Republicans across the country have made Democrats’ handling of crime one of their central talking points in the buildup to the midterm elections, with a number of Republicans claiming that their opponents have been insufficently supportive of law enforcement in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter protests and have championed policies responsible for spikes in crime.
Here’s what the @GOP don’t want you to know:
- 8 of the 10 states with the highest murder rates are Republican states
- CA actually has lower middle class tax rates than TX
- The gun death rate in Texas is 67% higher@WagnerTonight pic.twitter.com/H3wy77Gipi
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) September 28, 2022
But that narrative is complicated by the facts. Though a number of major cities moved to reduce police funding in the summer of 2020, funding for law enforcement in many cities has actually increased since then. President Joe Biden, meanwhile, has relentlessly pushed to expand funding for and criticised the movement to defund the police.
Meanwhile, as Mr Newsom points out, violent crime is often considerably worse in Republican-led states and muncipalities. Of the 10 states with the highest rate of firearm mortality, New Mexico is the only state that supported Mr Biden in the 2020 presidential election and the only state whose government is predominantly controlled by Democrats.
High rates of gun violence are linked with high rates of gun ownership, which tend to trend higher in Republican-controlled states with looser firearm restrictions. The 10 states with the highest rates of gun ownership all have Republican-led governments.
Gun violence is also, despite prevailing narratives in some corners of the media and political worlds, sharply felt in many rural communities. A report from the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress found that rural counties’ proportional gun death rates have outnumbered those of urban counties.
The percieved disconnect between that data and the public perception on how the two parties handle crime has irked Mr Newsom, who also criticised the Democratic response to the reversal of Roe v Wade earlier this year.
“Crime is higher, as well as taxes for the average citizen in Texas... than in the state of California; 67 per cent higher gun death rate in the state of Texas,” Mr Newsom said. “Why don’t we push back?”
Mr Newsom has dealt aggressively with gun violence during his tenure as governor. Earlier this year, in response to laws targeting people who provide abortion care, he signed a bill allowing individuals and local and state governments to sue gun makers for negligence. If it survives legal challenges, the law will take effect next year.
He has also frequently gone after both Texas Gov Greg Abbott and Florida Gov Ron DeSantis as he raises his national profile ahead of a potential White House bid in 2024 or 2028. Mr Newsom, a first-term governor who is expected to cruise to re-election this fall, recently aired a television advertisement in Florida criticising the state for its attacks on reproductive choice, free speech in schools, and other social issues.
“I urge all of you living in Florida to join the fight — or join us in California, where we still believe in freedom,” Mr Newsom says in the spot.