Eight Republican presidential candidates were under the bright lights in Milwaukee, Wis., this week as the 2024 election officially kicked off with the first televised debate of the campaign.
Fox News hosted the debate and candidates who qualified for the stage included North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, South Carolina U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, former Gov. and Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Former President Donald Trump sat out the debate and instead sat for a Tucker Carlson interview posted to X, formerly known as Twitter.
Only one question in the two-hour debate focused on crime and how criminals are held accountable for their crimes, or in many big cities – not held accountable. The candidate responses highlighted reasons why Americans are continuing to buy firearms at historic levels, including more than 8 million first-time buyers just in the last couple of years. As Americans cite self-defense as a top reason for buying a firearm, 1 million or more National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) verifications have been processed for 48 straight months.
Former Vice President Mike Pence
“Well I think what’s part to blame is that Democrats have been talking about defunding the police for the past five years,” the former vice president said. “It’s extraordinary to think about the violence that is claiming innocent lives literally every week in every major city in the country. And yet Democrats and liberal prosecutors in major metropolitan centers continue to work out their fanciful agendas, to do bail reform and go easy. What we need is a strong commitment to law enforcement.
Former Gov. Chris Christie
Former N.J. Gov. Christie was asked about the Democratic blame-game for saying there is “easy access to guns” and blaming Republicans for blocking more gun control legislation. The former governor highlighted his time as a federal prosecutor.
“The problem is not going to be solved by more money,” former Gov. Christie said. “The problem is these prosecutors, in these localities in the states, are refusing to do their job and arrest violent criminals. We have plenty of room in federal prisons to lock up these violent criminals and clean up what’s going on in these cities.”
He added that prosecutors need to get tough on those who lie on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) background check form and specifically referenced Hunter Biden, the president’s son.
“We need to make sure these criminals understand – the laws apply to everybody,” former Gov. Christie explained. “And when Hunter Biden fills out a fake application, a false application for a gun, and then is facing a 10-year, mandatory minimum sentence – which was mandated by legislation sponsored by his father, and then you have a Justice Department that walks away from those charges – you’re telling people the law doesn’t apply to everyone. In a Christie administration, he would go to jail for 10 years.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis
The Florida governor hit soft-on-crime prosecutors for failing to hold criminals accountable.
“These hollowed-out cities, this is a symptom of America’s decline,” Gov. DeSantis said. “And one of the biggest reasons is because you have George Soros funding these radical Left-wing district attorneys that get into office and they say they’re not going to prosecute crimes they disagree with. The inmates start running the asylum.”
Gov. DeSantis highlighted his record of firing prosecutors for failing in their duties.
“There’s one guy in this entire country that’s ever done anything about that – me,” he said. “When we had two of these district attorneys in Florida, elected with Soros funding who said they wouldn’t do their job, I removed them from their post. They are gone.”
NSSF led the FixNICS campaign and changed the law in 16 states and at the federal level to get all disqualifying records into the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System so the background check system is more complete and works as it was intended.
The public is educated and reminded of those stiff penalties with the help of the firearm industry’s partnership with the ATF under the Don’t Lie for the Other Guy initiative. With industry input and support, the federal minimum sentence for an individual who lies on a firearm background check, like Hunter Biden did, and makes an illegal “straw purchase” of a firearm was increased from 10 years to 15 years. That was a provision of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) that NSSF supported.
Matt Manda is Manager, Public Affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
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