DC Mayor Bowser Admits the Obvious: Masks Embolden Criminals

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser has apparently had a sudden rush of brains to the head, admitting that wearing masks emboldens criminals. This, in a city undergoing a crime wave, is the dictionary definition of "belaboring the obvious." The Washington Examiner's Timothy P. Carney brings us his view:


Forty years ago, the D.C. City Council was worried about a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, so they passed an anti-mask law.

Three years ago, the D.C. City Council was worried about police mistreatment of black residents (and worried about COVID) and so they repealed the anti-mask law as part of a “criminal-justice reform” package in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Today, the mayor of Washington, D.C., is worried about the crime wave sweeping the district — particularly the surge in teenage criminals — and so she has proposed to restore the anti-mask law.

I'm pretty sure there's a First Amendment argument to be made there someplace, and somewhere, some of the "driving alone in your personal car wearing a mask" zealots are screeching in outrage. However (and I never thought I'd write these words), Mayor Bowser is proposing the correct action here. It's understandable why the anti-mask law was passed in the first place, although it's less easy to understand why it was repealed. Anyone with the sense of an armadillo could see how allowing people to cover their faces would embolden criminals. And that certainly was the case in DC:

When I’ve witnessed teenagers walking into a D.C.-area CVS, filling their backpacks with bottles of expensive shampoo, and walking briskly out of the store, they have been masked teenagers. The massive epidemic of retail theft relies on people wearing masks so as to avoid detection by shoppers, clerks, and surveillance cameras. That’s why New York Mayor Eric Adams has called on stores to require shoppers to lower their mask upon entry.

Watch the videos of random street assaults and public transit shootings. The young assailants are wearing masks. It’s the same with the carjackers.


DC's crime problems have many more causes than simply relaxing a mask law, although restoring that law will help. The destruction of urban families, the imposition of soft-on-crime policies, and the appointment of liberal judges have undoubtedly all contributed, as has the toxic urban "thug" culture, which seems to infest many of our major metropolitan eras. The COVID-19 panic and the accompanying mask mandates didn't help, and we might note that the federal government is apparently considering a re-imposition of those mandates in the event some interesting new virus suddenly appears.

(I always wondered if, during the COVID panic and mask mandates, there weren't two troll-like figures in a basement somewhere in Washington behind a door marked "Psy-Ops" chortling madly and saying, "I bet we can get them to wear four masks!")

Back to DC:

Bowser has proposed that masking while committing a crime be an additional charge on top of the other charges.

I don't know if anti-mask laws are effective, and I worry whether they infringe on free speech. Bans on masks might best be enforced by private businesses — no visible face, no entry. But I am cheered that a second U.S. mayor has acknowledged that masking causes crime.

That's a reasonable outlook. I share Mr. Carney's First Amendment concerns, but it's perhaps stretching things a bit to claim wearing a mask is a political statement; I suppose a religious liberty case could be made for, say, Muslim women, but if you look at the D.C. crime rate, Muslim women are clearly not the primary demographic involved in crimes in the metro area.


Even so, repealing the anti-mask law clearly is emboldening criminals, and in most of our major cities, criminals are more than emboldened enough already.

Some years ago, Marine, firearms trainer, and gun writer Jeff Cooper said this:

It has long been my conviction that a masked man with a gun is a target. I see no reason to change that view.

He was correct.


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