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Sen. Hawley calls for raising mandatory minimum sentences, more police

Buffalo Supermarket Shooting
Posted at 9:40 AM, May 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-26 10:40:55-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With the country wrestling with the fallout from the slaughter of 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo, Sen. Josh Hawley was asked last week what more can be done to stop domestic terrorism and episodic mass murder unique to the United States.

“Lack of criminals is the most important thing we can do,” Hawley said. “We can say to criminals that if you commit a violent crime and you commit a violent crime with a firearm, you’re not going to see the light of day again. You’re going to spend the rest of your waking days in prison or you’re going to be sentenced to death.”

According to Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, the solution is “that we’re not going to be soft on crime any longer.” He used the rising homicide rate across the country in trying to lay the violence on President Biden’s feet.

When it was pointed out that homicide numbers, especially across his home state of Missouri, initially spiked in 2019 and 2020 long before the current administration had taken office, he pivoted to blame “soft-on-crime prosecutors” in the jurisdictions where violent crime surged.

Asked for specific action he would take at the federal level, Hawley said “raising the mandatory minimums for criminal acts is absolutely [something] the federal government can do.”

The only other policy Hawley suggested for curbing violent crime in the wake of the Buffalo shooting — but before 19 children and two adults were murdered in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday — was to increase the number of police.

“We ought to put more cops on the street,” Hawley said. “I proposed legislation to put 100,000 new cops on the street and I think that’s what we ought to be doing — support law enforcement, not this defund the police stuff that has gotten us where we are.”

It’s unclear if he was suggesting a correlation between “defunding the police” and Kansas City’s spiking homicide totals, which include three of the most violent years for homicide deaths in KCMO history.

There were a record 179 homicides in KCMO in 2020 and 157 last year, which ranks second for most homicides in the city’s history. The 151 homicides in 2019 tied for the fourth-most on record, according to KCPD data.

Kansas City’s police department is controlled by a governor-appointed Board of Police Commissioners, and state law mandates the percentage of general revenue the city must allocate to police each year.

Under current Missouri law, Kansas City is required to give 20% of its annual general revenue — or $1 of every $5 the city collects — to the police department.

After Mayor Quinton Lucas and the city council tried to redirect some of the police budget to community-focused policing initiatives last spring, a move the courts blocked since it came after the budgeting process, the Missouri Legislature responded by passing Senate Bill 678, which bumps the mandatory KCPD allocation to 25% — or $1 from every $4 the city collects.

Regardless, KCPD has not had its budget slashed nor has the city’s police department been defunded at any point.

Hawley also lamented what he called “all-time highs” for police officers being assaulted or killed in the line of duty.