The Truth About the “Horrible” Crime in Milwaukee

Gun Rights

Last week, Donald Trump said behind closed doors to House Republicans, “Milwaukee, where we are having our convention, is a horrible city.”

Trump now denies making the insult to the city where the Republican National Convention will convene in mid-July. But several Republicans in the room already copped to it, while making excuses such as, “he was only talking about crime.”

The former president’s perception of Milwaukee may be shaped by the rise in homicides while he was in office. The Milwaukee murder rate nearly doubled from 2019 to 2020 in Trump’s last year in office, when the mismanaged Covid-19 pandemic led to a nationwide spike in crime.

But it’s a different story under the Biden administration. According to data from the Milwaukee Police Department, the number of homicides dropped 20 percent last year, and is down another 17 percent so far this year.

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Other types of serious crime are also significantly down when comparing year-to-date figures from this year to 2022. Aggravated assaults are down 14 percent. Motor vehicle theft is down 36 percent. Other theft is down 25 percent.

Of course, like any city in gun-saturated America, Milwaukee suffers from needless gun deaths.

Today, Washington Monthly publishes Gun Without a Trace—an investigation by Jamaal Abdul-Alim into one of those deaths: the 2018 murder of 13-year old Sandra Parks in her bedroom, by a man trying to shoot someone else with an illegally possessed assault weapon.

Abdul-Alim, a longtime journalist with a deep background on the crime beat, sought to track down the origin of the weapon. But he notes the task is much harder than it used to be:

…in 2003, Republicans in Congress, pushed by National Rifle Association lobbyists, made it so that any “trace” information about crime guns could not be released to the public. They stepped up their efforts to protect the gun industry two years later, granting dealers and manufacturers blanket immunity (with a few exceptions) from civil suits.

Not only do these rules prevent victims of gun crime from seeking compensation, they also leave us blind when it comes to crafting solutions. Academics can’t use this data to study how guns end up in criminals’ hands; mayors can’t obtain it to figure out how to make their cities safer.

The Biden administration has taken steps in recent years to release more information about problem gun shops, and a series of lawsuits has challenged restrictions on trace information. But until Congress decides to protect the public and changes the law, weapons will continue to flow unchecked to America’s streets. 

If Trump was really concerned about crime, he would break from the NRA and support stricter gun laws. But, as noted in a prior newsletter, Trump is not the opponent of crime he claims to be, but a criminal who does not believe the law should apply to him in the pursuit of money and power.

Click here to read Abdul-Alim’s investigation and learn where the gun that senselessly killed Sandra Parks came from as well as what we can do to prevent more senseless killing.


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Bill Scher, Washington Monthly politics editor

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