How can a U.S. senator from California fight crime from Washington?
Let the candidates for the office, appearing in their first televised debate Monday, count the many, many supposed ways – with little consensus.
Loretta Sanchez, a Democratic congresswoman from Orange County, wants to downgrade marijuana’s current classification to put it on par with drugs like cocaine, oxycodone and methadone, instead of heroin, ecstasy and LSD. (Fellow Democrat Kamala Harris wants to do this, too.)
Sanchez also would fight to restore funding for community-oriented policing, which she said was targeted by un-supportive Republicans.
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Republican Ron Unz thinks the gun-control debate is dominated by small, but aggressive numbers of fringe liberals and conservatives for their own political gain. Guns, Unz said, don’t have much of an impact on crime. Failed drug laws are “vastly more significant” on crime, he said.
Republican Duf Sundheim says criminals, drugs addicts and the mentally ill need to be treated differently. Reduced penalties for property crimes have inflamed a tricky situation.
Harris, a local prosecutor until her elevation to attorney general six years ago, said she wants to build on the leadership of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who wrote the decade-long ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004. Several of her efforts to revive the ban failed, leading the senior senator to urge her Senate colleagues to “show some guts.”
Harris wants the ban renewed – along with “pretty simply, reasonable stuff.” Dangerous felons and mentally unstable people shouldn’t be allowed to possess guns, she said.
Debating the crime issue, Republican Tom Del Beccaro spent most of his time going after the frontrunner, Harris, for loosely-related topics like her office’s investigation of the anti-abortion rights activist behind controversial videos targeting Planned Parenthood.
Del Beccaro thinks Harris’ jail rehabilitation program for non-violent, non-serious and non-sexual offenders is too lenient, saying “We must put people in jail who commit crimes.”
Harris was not given much time to respond, tough she squeezed in her support for abortion rights. After the debate, Harris said the investigation bars her from providing any details about the probe of anti-abortion activist David Daleiden and his Irvine-based Center for Medical Progress.
“The reality of it is we need to have criminal justice policy in this country that understands that we’ve been far too reactive,” she said.