The Karen Bass Gun Burglary Raises So Many Questions

Cityside Column: Details are slim in the latest unpredictable aspect of the mayor’s race but it certainly isn’t great for Rep. Bass

The press release hit inboxes Saturday afternoon with the snap of—a gunshot. In 77 words, U.S. Rep. Karen Bass revealed there had been a break-in at her home—just as the contentious mayoral race in Los Angeles was heating up again.

“At this time, it appears that only two firearms, despite being safely and securely stored, were stolen,” she stated. She added that cash, jewelry, and other valuables in the Baldwin Vista residence were left untouched.

With that came the recoil, and another unpredictable element in a mayoral contest that has been full of them. Just a week ago I wrote that, with two months until the ballots are counted, both Bass and her challenger, mall tycoon Rick Caruso, must be prepared for the unexpected. And it’s safe to consider the theft of a couple of deadly weapons an unexpected event.

There is so much to unpack here, and while a home burglary doesn’t change the face of the race or dim Bass’ status as the presumed frontrunner, it does spark a high-capacity magazine full of questions.

Why does Bass, who during a March debate said she feels safe in Los Angeles, have a pair of firearms? How long has she owned them? How often does she go shooting? Did she name her guns? What kind of firearms were they? A pistol? A handgun? Was one a musket? And if “only two” firearms were taken—how many are there in the residence total?

This is not to overlook the possibility that Bass faces a security threat that has not been publicly revealed, one serious enough to require her to have a weapon. Nor does it make light of gun violence, which there is far too much of in the country and in Los Angeles. According to the LAPD, there have been 270 homicides in the city through Sept. 3. Which is three more than at the same time in 2021, a year that would end with 397 murders in L.A., making it the deadliest year since 2007. So far this year, the LAPD has fielded 2,221 reports of shots fired, and police Compstat data identifies 977 shooting victims. At weekly Police Commission meetings, Chief Michel Moore regularly decries the rise in gun usage, including untraceable, unregistered “ghost guns” that can be manufactured on a 3D printer.

I don’t know what kind of weapons were taken, or much more about the burglary. Bass isn’t sharing many details, though on Wednesday she told FOX11 news anchor Elex Michaelson that the guns were registered, and she said the LAPD told her two arrests have been made. This comes in the wake of a slim Sunday LAPD press release that included a picture of a suspect wearing dark clothing and a blue surgical mask.

Last week was not a good one for Bass. The burglary occurred a few days after an L.A. Times report that dug into a master’s degree in social work that she received from USC, and which the university gave her gratis. Although Bass said a House of Representatives ethics panel okayed the degree, and the article made clear she is not under investigation, the Times reported that federal prosecutors consider her scholarship to be a “critical” part of an examination into a bribery and conspiracy case targeting City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas and former USC School of Social Work Dean Marilyn Flynn. The lengthy story is not what Bass wants after a strong campaign summer and a few weeks before mail-in ballots arrive at homes.

This is, however, precisely the kind of opening Caruso needs. The burglary and the USC story won’t deter any locked-in Bass supporters, but there are a lot of low-information voters in Los Angeles, and Caruso will use these items to try to sow doubt about her among the undecided crowd. One can envision the onslaught of grainy TV commercials he will rain down that mention the investigation and the burglary.

The other key element here is public safety. Crime has been one of the dominant issues of the election, and although burglary and robbery numbers in the city are actually well below what they were a decade ago, the rising homicide count and a string of high-profile violent crimes have convinced a portion of the electorate that Los Angeles is becoming more dangerous. Caruso hit the topic hard during the primary. He will certainly seek to use a burglary in the home of his rival to his advantage.

Bass, meanwhile, may have to walk a tightrope, convincing liberal voters and those on the fence that they can still feel good about supporting her even if she owns a couple of guns.

One senses that there is much not yet revealed about the burglary, and it could be an intriguing topic in the Sept. 21 mayoral forum that will air on FOX 11. Bass will likely be asked to provide additional information about what happened and share more of her history with firearms. Caruso will probably also be asked if he has weapons at home.

Perhaps when the forum is done, the two could take it outside for a round of target practice. For once they could fire at a bulls-eye, rather than at their political rival.

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