Californians can’t go a day without hearing about tragic crime in their community. From the Drug Enforcement Agency seizing a record one million fentanyl pills in Inglewood, to the L.A. Police Department warning communities about street robberies and follow-home attacks throughout L.A., rising crime is completely out of control. And these past few weeks we have all seen the horrific headlines that read, “Victims identified in 6th mass shooting in 13 days to rock California.” The most basic responsibility of government is to protect its people.
Parents like me fear the proliferation of deadly fentanyl pills that look like a Sweet Tarts. Around 10,000 Californians died of a drug overdose over just one year during the pandemic, a 29% increase from the year prior. Fentanyl is a big culprit, and we need to increase the penalty for the sale, possession for sale, and transportation of fentanyl.
Violent crime in Los Angeles is up 60% compared to 2019. 2021 broke the record for the highest number of homicides in the region in 15 years — nearly 400 killings. Last year a convicted murderer under early release by L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón was arrested on gun and drug charges after leading sheriff’s deputies on a 3-mile car chase. He served a mere six years out of a 50-year prison sentence.
Throwing people out of prison early only continues the vicious cycle, and lenient sentencing only encourages more criminal activity. We need to reform Assembly Bill 109, and repeal Propositions 47 and 57. These three laws combined are the major reasons for the increase of retail and property theft, and early release of criminals who simply repeat their crimes.
We can make significant strides against crime, while also chipping away at the root causes of violent shootings and gun violence. California has the most restrictive gun laws in the nation. We require safety training, background checks to purchase guns and ammunition, require a 10-day waiting period, have outlawed high-capacity magazines, outlawed ghost guns and have many more gun restrictions on the books. But we don’t hold criminals accountable, and they don’t follow these rules.
Did you know that California has the Armed and Prohibited Persons System, which is overseen by the California Department of Justice. This system is supposed to facilitate removal of guns from convicted felons and people who have a restraining order against them. Last year California allocated $40 million in the budget for APPS. Yet as of today, more than 24,000 people are still on the list as having registered firearms and 54% of them are convicted felons.
Today there is a bill by my friend Assemblywoman Laurie Davies, who represents part of Orange County, that will streamline information sharing between local law enforcement and the Department of Justice through the creation of an APPS database. Now if we can get serious about consequences for people who use guns in the commission of a crime… However, last year Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law that ended penalty enhancements for using a firearm in a crime.
We need to raise the bar and hold criminals accountable for the crimes they commit, make sure they serve their sentences, get tough on those who commit crimes using a firearm. If not, the fentanyl epidemic will grow, violent crime will keep rising, and our children will face increasing danger and risk becoming a crime victim.
We know what will work to keep our community safe and protect victims. We just need people with the courage to enact those changes.
Suzette Martinez Valladares is Santa Clarita’s former assemblywoman, wife, girl mom, avid DIY’er and a monthly contributor to The Signal’s “Right, Here Right Now,” which appears Saturdays and rotates among local Republicans.