Donald Trump, in an official policy statement on his website, extolls Project Exile, a signature anti-gun violence policy implemented by Tim Kaine when he was mayor of Richmond, Virginia, in 1998.
Trump, arguably one of the Second Amendment’s staunchest defenders, laid out a detailed statement about his position on firearms on his campaign website in 2015. One of the pillars called to “enforce [gun safety] laws on the books” and reinstate the now-defunct Project Exile, which Kaine championed during his time as mayor.
Project Exile, named for its goal to prosecute felons caught with firearms in federal courts as opposed to state courts, aimed to ensure criminals would receive “harsher sentences, no option of bail, and no potential for early release,” according to the National Institute of Justice. Tim Kaine was an early and enthusiastic supporter of the program and was successful in implementing it throughout his jurisdiction in Richmond, a city that consistently had one of the highest rates of homicides per capita at the time.
Project Exile, endorsed by both the National Rifle Association as well as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, yielded significant results: after the program was implemented, deaths from gun violence in Richmond fell by 22 per cent per year, compared to the national rate of decline of 10 per cent per year for other U.S. cities. Kaine touted the effects of Project Exile when he ran for lieutenant governor in 2001, and has said the possession he is proudest of is the award given to Richmond for Project Exile by the International Chiefs of Police.
Calling Project Exile a “tremendous program” in his statement, Trump said we “need to bring back and expand programs like Project Exile and get gang members and drug dealers off the street”:
“Several years ago there was a tremendous program in Richmond, Virginia called Project Exile. It said that if a violent felon uses a gun to commit a crime, you will be prosecuted in federal court and go to prison for five years — no parole or early release. Obama’s former Attorney General, Eric Holder, called that a “cookie cutter” program. That’s ridiculous. I call that program a success. Murders committed with guns in Richmond decreased by over 60% when Project Exile was in place — in the first two years of the program alone, 350 armed felons were taken off the street.”
“Why does that matter to law-abiding gun owners? Because they’re the ones who anti-gun politicians and the media blame when criminals misuse guns. We need to bring back and expand programs like Project Exile and get gang members and drug dealers off the street. When we do, crime will go down and our cities and communities will be safer places to live.”
Just months later, at a rally in July, Trump went on to slam Kaine, who is currently the Democratic vice presidential nominee, for doing “a terrible job” in the state. At Wednesday rally in Abingdon, Virginia, he called Kaine’s governorship “catastrophic.”
Kaine, a strong advocate for gun control, has been one of Trump’s most vocal critics on the campaign trail. Speaking to reporters Tuesday after an event in Austin, Texas, Kaine called the billionaire “temperamentally unfit” to lead the nation after Trump made a comment about “Second Amendment people” that many saw as a call to incite violence against democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
“Nobody who is seeking a leadership position, especially the presidency, the leadership of the country, should do anything to countenance violence,” Kaine said.
The Trump campaign and Clinton campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
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