The Biden administration’s criminal justice policies are riddled with contradictions and misplaced priorities allowing convicts and hard drug users to avoid punishment while simultaneously imposing measures that would turn many law-abiding Americans into criminals, according to a prominent U.S. senator.
“This administration would make criminals of law-abiding citizens while granting actual felons early release and encouraging illicit drug use,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., told Fox News Digital. “No wonder Americans have lost faith in an administration that’s less interested in public safety than targeting political enemies.”
Cotton called out the administration for pursuing criminal justice policies that on one hand appear to take a softer approach to illegal drug offenders but on the other hand cracks down on pistol owners and cigarette smokers.
President Biden has long sought to cut the country’s prison population significantly. Biden joined the American Civil Liberties Union’s pledge to release half of the U.S. prison population while he was on the campaign trail in 2019, saying he’d “go further” and release “more than” what the organization called for.
Critics on the political left have blasted Biden for not following through on that promise, as incarceration in federal prisons has actually increased during his presidency. In April, however, Biden commuted the sentences of 31 people convicted of nonviolent drug crimes who were serving time in home confinement. The move came along with the president announcing an “Alternatives, Rehabilitation, and Reentry Strategic Plan” that included measures such as removing barriers for convicted criminals in prison to vote.
Such steps appear to fit with the administration’s so-called “harm reduction” strategy toward illegal drug use. The basic idea is not to focus on helping drug users achieve abstinence but rather on lowering their risk of dying or acquiring infectious diseases.
A central pillar of harm reduction is establishing “safe injection” sites where addicts can inject themselves with street drugs such as heroin under supervision. Drugs users are provided with sterile needles to use, as well as tools to check drugs for fentanyl and other lethal substances. Those who take too much can be revived by on-site supervisors.
In May, New York University and Brown University announced receiving more than $5 million in grant money from the federal government for a study measuring whether overdoses can be prevented by safe injection sites.
Proponents of the harm reduction approach argue it could help stop a record number of overdose deaths largely caused by synthetic fentanyl. Others counter that the goal should be to help addicts quit with a comprehensive treatment plan, saying the administration’s philosophy will keep people on a cycle of addiction.
The administration especially caught flak last year, when Biden announced a $30 million federal grant program that would reimburse local governments and entities that provide safe “smoking kits,” in the name of advancing racial equity and safer drug use for addicts.
The Washington Free Beacon reported that those kits would provide users with the ability to smoke “any illicit substance,” including crack cocaine and crystal methamphetamine. The story also noted existing smoking kit programs in cities such as San Francisco, Seattle and Annapolis, Maryland, all include smoking pipes.
The White House and the Department of Health and Human Services repeatedly denied that crack pipes would be distributed on the taxpayer dime, but the Free Beacon subsequently reported that harm-reduction organizations in five East Coast cities — New York City, Washington, D.C., Boston, Baltimore, and Richmond, Virginia — all included crack pipes in their so-called safe smoking kits.
Amid the harm reduction approach, the Biden administration has simultaneously sought to impose tougher restrictions and punishments on certain gun owners and cigarette smokers, pushing rules that could end up classifying law-abiding citizens as criminals.
Last year, the administration’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a plan for a nationwide ban on menthol cigarettes, saying the actions have the potential to significantly reduce disease and death.
The FDA has said it can’t and won’t enforce the ban against individual consumers for possession or use of menthol cigarettes but will do so for manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, importers, and retailers who manufacture, distribute, or sell such products within the U.S.
The Biden administration, with the support of Democrats in Congress, has taken various steps to crack down on menthol tobacco products, potentially impacting millions of Americans. In 2019 and 2020, sales of menthol-flavored cigarettes made up 37% of all cigarette sales in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Beyond tobacco, the administration’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is pushing a rule that categorizes pistols with a stabilizing brace as short-barreled rifles, which require a federal license to own. As a result, the rule requires gun owners to register pistols with stabilizing braces. Other options for gun owners include surrendering the firearm or taking off the stabilizing brace from the firearm.
Pistol braces are accessories that can be attached to the rear of a gun to make it easier to aim and fire with one hand. The accessories are often used by disabled veterans.
Democrats argue brace-equipped firearms have been used in mass shootings and the regulation is needed to prevent more deaths and helps protect the public from dangerous weapons. Republicans say the regulation violates Second Amendment rights and would expose unknowing gun owners to criminal liability. Those who don’t comply with the regulation could face up to 10 years’ imprisonment or $10,000 in fines or both, according to the ATF.
House Republicans passed a measure last month nullifying the ATF’s rule, but Senate Democrats rejected the measure. Cotton was among the senators to vote against the pistol brace rule.
“Pistol braces are common, legal accessories used responsibly by most gun owners,” Cotton said in a statement at the time of the vote. “Yet this rule will turn many Arkansans into felons almost overnight. The Biden administration and Senate Democrats are once again ignoring the fact that stopping gun violence starts with tougher sentences for criminals who violate gun laws, not more regulations for law-abiding gun owners.”
Biden threatened to veto the bill overturning the ATF’s rule.
Fox News Digital has reached out to the White House for comment for this story.