13. In 1996 Congress passed the “Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban,” or “Lautenberg Law,” as it is popularly known. The language was a small part of the huge “Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act,” a must-pass bill enacted on the final day of the 104th Congress. There were no hearings and very little debate on the measure which, for the first time in the history of federal gun control, affected law enforcement officers and members of the military. The law provides a Federal firearms disability for any person convicted, regardless of the date of conviction, for a misdemeanor offense in which domestic violence is an actual or statutory element. The law has had no demonstrable impact in the fight against domestic violence to date, is not being properly enforced on military personnel, and is aimed only at active duty law enforcement officers under the current enforcement strategy. Because of liability concerns, good police officers are losing their jobs for minor offenses committed long before the law passed. What is your position with respect to this law, and would you support legislation to amend it by making its application prospective from the date of original enactment for all persons? Would you sign such a bill if passed by Congress?
Obama: I do not support a repeal of this law. While some progress has been made, domestic violence is still a significant problem facing women, men, families, and communities.
Romney: I believe that law enforcement officers and others affected by this law should be afforded appropriate due process, and that the law should be applied even-handedly among those covered by it. As Governor of Massachusetts, I supported tough domestic violence laws, and will continue to do so as president. I also would carefully review any proposed changes to this law suggested by Congress to avoid any future unintended consequences. I also favor periodic review of the effectiveness of our laws in achieving the objectives they were designed to accomplish. If this or any other law was studied and demonstrated to be ineffective or have negative unintended consequences, I would support appropriate reforms.
14. Federal funding for State and local law enforcement is a very real concern, especially given the increased homeland security responsibilities of State and local agencies and the impact of deep cuts to our most critical programs in the past two years. How will you work to ensure continued Federal funding for traditional law enforcement programs like the hiring program administered by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne-JAG) programs, the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), and the Bulletproof Vest Partnership (BVP) program?
Obama: We need an economy that is no longer burdened by years of debt and in which everyone shoulders their fair share to put our fiscal house in order. I have proposed a plan to reduce deficits by $4 trillion over the next ten years, bringing deficits down to a sustainable level that shares the burden and requires tough choices on spending.
Even in the face of these historic budget challenges, I will continue to ensure a strong commitment to our nation’s law enforcement needs and priorities. The Recovery Act kept hundreds of thousands of state and local workers on the job through the economic crisis, and provided $4 billion specifically for state and local law enforcement. My budget continues to assist State and local criminal just programs with more than $2 billion in program assistance for police hiring, general purpose criminal justice assistance, violence against women programs, and Second Chance Act grants, the same as in 2012. The budget requests $935 million for the Office of Justice Programs State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance, including $430 million for the Byrne-JAG program, $24 million for the Bulletproof Vest Program, and $70 million for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program.
Romney: I share the concerns of the Fraternal Order of Police regarding law enforcement funding in light of the continuing – and, in many cases, worsening – fiscal and budgetary crises at the state, local, and federal level and believe we must do all possible to maintain an appropriate level of support for state and local law enforcement. I think the frontline professionals who are fighting crime are in the best position to decide how to allocate limited funds to achieve agreed-upon public safety objectives. There are currently many different federal funding streams and grant programs that can be pitted against one another and their related purposes in annual budget and funding decisions. In my view, the best approach is to consult closely with those authorities and personnel who need and will be utilizing the funding. I will seek out the views of the Fraternal Order of Police to evaluate traditional law enforcement programs and determine the funding structures and amounts necessary to ensure effective law enforcement.
15. Several organizations and many fringe groups have accused State and local law enforcement agencies receiving Federal assistance through the 287(g) program of using these funds to “target communities of color, including disproportionate numbers of Latinos in particular places, for arrest.” The FOP rejects these assertions as hateful and counter to the law enforcement mission. The 287(g) program is a powerful example of a successful cooperative effort between State and local law enforcement and the Federal government. For State and local agencies, the Federal resources provided by the program allow them to pursue investigations relating to violent crimes, human trafficking, gang/organized crime activity, sexual-related offenses, narcotics trafficking and money laundering. It also allows the Federal government to tap into the resources and capabilities of State and local agencies to identify and remove serious and violent criminals who have illegally entered the United States. Would your Administration continue to support or expand this program?
Obama: Yes. My administration has worked to provide funding for the 287(g) program, while improving oversight and management. The Department of Homeland Security has also taken critical steps to strengthen public safety and ensure consistency in immigration enforcement across the country by prioritizing the arrest and detention of those individuals who have criminal convictions or fall under other priority categories.
Romney: Yes. My administration will support the 287(g) program, which follows the time-tested multijurisdictional and multi-agency approach that has worked well for decades across many different areas of law enforcement. In the current era of limited funding and tight budges, the partnerships created under the 287(g) program provide additional resources and trained personnel to supplement the efforts of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). As Governor, I reached a 287(g) agreement to authorize Massachusetts law enforcement to assist in the enforcement of immigration law.