Crime Control Policy Obama and McCain: What Does Each Candidate Say about Crime Control?
Barack Obama's Crime Control Policies: An Overview • Some restrictions on certain types of guns • Supports death penalty in more limited circumstances • Ease some drug sentencing requirements • Undecided on medical marijuana
JOHN McCain's Crime Control Policies: An Overview • Do not restrict guns for law-abiding adults • Keep death penalty as it is now used • Tough drug sentencing except for first-time users • No medical marijuana
Gun Control • McCain and Obama agree on the basics for gun policy and crime, but their specific proposals look very different. • On gun control, they agree that the Second Amendment provides a right for gun ownership. • Obama has supported several restrictions on gun ownership, including bans on assault weapons and semiautomatics. • Both McCain and Obama support closing the "gun show loophole" by requiring background checks for all sales at gun shows. • McCain does not support any gun restrictions on gun ownership for law-abiding citizens
Gun Policy Debate • On June 26, 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that Washington, DC's ban on handgun possession was unconstitutional. • The case, District of Columbia v. Heller, also marked the first time in US history that the Supreme Court had clarified the meaning of the "right to bear arms" language in the Second Amendment. • DC had banned handgun possession even in the home, which the high court saw as an unconstitutional overreach of federal power
Guns and Politics • The gun policy debate is generally cast with the Second Amendment right to bear arms on one side and the need to limit handgun violence, largely in inner cities, on the other. • Beyond solely limiting ownership, regulations like background checks can be established, ostensibly as safeguards.
Some Facts About the Death Penalty • The death penalty for capital crimes has always been allowed in America, with the exception of a brief moratorium imposed by the Supreme Court from 1972 until 1976. • Since the reinstatement, there have been 1,099 executions (through April 2008). • The Innocence Project highlighted the fact that some individuals on death row did not commit murder.
Recent Supreme Court Decision • The Supreme Court ruled in Louisiana v. Kennedy (2008) that the death penalty could not be imposed on child rapists because it "is not a proportional punishment.“ • They left capital punishment open for "offenses against the state" like treason, espionage, and terrorism.
Death and Politics • McCain and Obama are again both supporters of the Death Penalty, but they differ in important ways. • Obama wants to further restrict and regulate the punishment's use, • McCain supports its current usage. • McCain also supports applying the death penalty to drug kingpins, and has said that states should be allowed to apply the death penalty to crimes such as child rape, if they choose • Obama has said he supports the death penalty in extremely limited circumstances -- for "heinous crimes" such as "mass murder" or "the rape and murder of a child.“ • Obama does not believe that the death penalty deters crime, says it is applied unfairly, and that its usage should be further restricted.
Drug Policy • The current federal drug policy began with former President Richard Nixon's declaration of the "war on drugs" in 1971. • All of his successors have continued with his original plan, which has changed very little with time. • Offenders can serve jail time, although first-timers rarely do. The US government estimated the cost of the war on drugs for 2005 as roughly $45 billion, including approximately $30.1 billion spent incarcerating drug law violators. • Illicit drug use has remained roughly constant over the past 30 years.
Drug Policy Differences • On drug policy, they agree that first-time drug users should not go to prison. Obama would reduce some other federal drug sentencing guidelines and McCain would not. • Obama argues that drug dealing in inner-city communities should be addressed by increasing job opportunities, saying, "We can assume that with lawful work available for young men in the drug trade, crime in any community would drop." • Neither candidate offers an assessment of interdiction efforts. • They disagree on whether the government should pay for drug treatment.
Pot and Politics • On marijuana: • McCain would not support legalization of even medicinal marijuana, • Obama supports keeping marijuana illegal, but also wants to reduce criminal penalties for marijuana possession • Obama says he is undecided on medical marijuana and that the issue needs to be studied more.
The Marijuana Debate • Marijuana, a psychoactive drug, has been regulated in the US since the 1930s and is currently illegal. • The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has consistently classified marijuana as illegal because it "intoxicates those who use it, injuring their health and the well-being of those around them."
One Side: Keep it Criminal • Statistics identify marijuana use as currently the leading cause of treatment need for those abusing illegal drugs. • Marijuana is the second-leading reason for drug-induced emergency room visits and has surpassed alcohol in addictive risk for young people. • Criminalization supporters also point to the risks of developing schizophrenia, depression, cognitive deficits and respiratory problems from marijuana use, as well as its potential as a "gateway drug.“ • They contend that data from other countries like the Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada, and the UK shows that legalization results in vastly increased consumption.
The Other Side: Decriminalize • Marijuana users are largely non-violent offenders who end up overcrowding the federal prison system, spending needed federal dollars that will not ultimately reduce drug use or traffic. • Strict laws applied to marijuana use make the drug, which is easily grown, literally worth its weight in gold for traffickers from big cartels, increasing their profits and influence. • Advocates compare marijuana use to alcohol consumption and compare today's drug policy to ineffective Prohibition laws in the early 20th century.
Police and Politics • Both McCain and Obama support increases in the number of federal, state, and local police . • Neither candidate has talked about specific police strategies, such as community policing, problem-oriented policing, broken windows and zero tolerance policing. • Obama sponsored a bill in Illinois requiring videotaping of interrogations of people suspected of death penalty crimes, saying that this would help ensure that the death penalty is correctly applied.
Supreme Court and Politics • The next President will likely appoint at least one new supreme Court Justice. • Each candidate has raised this possibility but it has not been a major debate issue.
Prisons and Politics • The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world: though only 5% of the world's population lives in the U.S., it is home to 25% of the world's prisoners, • The Justice Department reported in February 2008 that 7.2 million people are in prison, on parole, or on probation in the United States. • 1 out of every 32 Americans is in the correctional system and 1 out of every 100 in prison, according to a 2008 Pew study. • Recidivism (return to crime) rates average around 50% within three years of release.
Prisons and Politics • Neither candidate has made crime control a major platform issue. • For first time drug users, McCain supports an Arizona program to give them treatment and a clean record. He wants this policy to be adopted nationwide, saying that "we have too many first-time drug offenders in prison . • Obama argues that jobs and education, not prison, will reduce crime.