As Georgia’s new Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) took office, Governor Brian Kemp laudably declared Georgia’s Gang Crisis would be at the forefront of his 2020 legislative program: “But my focus is on fulfilling my campaign promise to go after street gangs…We still have a lot of work to do there, so that’s my priority.” Furthermore, his primary funding priority was further reiterated on social media: going after street gangs.
Loeffler need go no further than our visionary governor who appointed her for what her legislative priority should be. America, like Georgia, faces a crisis of gang crime. Unlike, Georgia, however, the federal government has no gang prosecution law.
Accordingly, Loeffler should propose exactly what her state and country needs: a federal gang prosecution law patterned after Georgia’s powerful anti-gang laws. By promising to sponsor a federal gang prosecution law, she could immediately resonate with Georgia conservatives and dramatically move against the country’s single greatest public safety threat.
Proposing a law would not only reinforce her own statements about gang crime, but also reiterate what gang experts and academic studies have shown for years: gang numbers may triple federal estimates, exceeding 4.5 million. Because gangs rule crime of all types, getting behind a federal law specifically designed to combat this peril would immediately make Loeffler a nationally respected figure. In a recent column, commentator Daniel Horowitz explains that Bureau of Justice Statistics calculations show that during the period that “criminal justice reform” began to take hold, “the number of violent-crime victims rose from 2.7 million in 2015 to 3.3 million in 2018, an increase of 604,000 victims.”
One of the nation’s leaders on the issue, Governor Kemp, continues to rightly gather renown support by law enforcement for the aggressive anti-gang platform on which he ran and continues to advance. Loeffler could capture this momentum by forcefully proposing a federal anti-gang act.
Keeping citizens protected against gangs is a winning ticket item, as commentators have explained, Governor Kemp and Attorney General Carr won office in 2018 in no small measure because they articulated the more aggressive anti-gang agendas. By announcing that she will sponsor a national gang prosecution law, Loeffler would speak to the majority of Georgians at the level of their clear preference: public safety.
For every foreign-born member of traditionally Latino/Hispanic gangs like SUR-13, MS-13, or 18th Street, there are those who were born in the U.S. And for every member of those gangs, there are members of All-American gangs like the Bloods, Crips, and Ghost Face Gansters, among numerous others. Immigration laws will not protect a single American from those native-born gang members. By supporting a federal anti-gang prosecution law, Loeffler could enable law enforcement and prosecution to deal with the totality of gang criminality, as opposed to merely a part.
Metro areas around the country, including Georgia, are besieged by the gang violence and bloodshed. They are universally controlled by Democrat district attorneys more in favor of ignoring Georgia’s Gang Statute than public safety. Plus, the largest single rise in national gang membership recorded—400,000 in just two years—occurred under Democrat President Obama. Did these Democrats push for a federal anti-gang law? Did the media pressure them to do so? Loeffler could capitalize on this negligence. Other factors that have fueled escalating gang crime are misguided attempts at sentence and bail reform that do not institute gang controls. Loeffler can right this course by pushing anti-gang legislation from the start.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds, Chief of Staff John Melvin, and Chief Counsel Mike Carlson have notably touted the Congressional passage of a national gang prosecution law. As Fuller E. Callaway Chair of Law Emeritus Ronald L. Carlson of the University of the Georgia School of Law has correctly imparted, “The federal [gang sentence enhancement] statute was described by one federal prosecutor as ‘unworkable.’ Perhaps this explains the hesitant application of its provisions. Comprehensive anti-gang frameworks, like Georgia’s model, are far more impactful against the gang epidemic.” The same goes for enlightened media figures like InsiderAdvantage’s Phil Kent and WSB Radio’s Monica Matthews. Prominently, so has Georgia Gang Investigators Association President, Jimmy Callaway. This merely scratches the surface.
By advocating in favor of a national anti-gang act, Sen. Loeffler could take advantage of fields that experts and other commentators have plowed on this issue for years.
During the January 5, 2020 installment of the Georgia Gang, panelist Tharon Johnson conveyed his belief that to be effective Loeffler should move forward in a unique fashion as opposed to “Republican Standard.” By pledging to sponsor a federal anti-gang prosecution law, the senator could do so, and attain a host of other advantages for herself, Georgia, and the U.S. In the end, Loeffler could move forward on a dramatic new law that would be as revolutionary as it is needed.
Bill Black is a Georgia attorney who graduated with honors from Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School and is concluding his Master of Laws at Georgetown University Law Center. The opinions are his own.