It appears that after a decade or two of acting like they care about law and order, Democrats are lurching back to being soft on crime. Attorney General Eric Holder indicated as much when he launched a frontal assault on “stand your ground” laws Tuesday.

From the 1960s well into the 1980s, laws regarding criminal justice and self-defense were stacked heavily against law-abiding Americans. Liberal judges routinely handed down minimal sentences after criminals had been convicted of heinous crimes. Americans who had defended themselves against criminals using force, often in their own homes, faced severe prosecution for exercising their natural right to defend their loved ones, their homes and their property. Crime rates soared and outrage built up as the legal system allowed criminal after criminal to walk free while acting in self-defense could ruin a law-abiding American’s life. Liberals did all of this in the name of “social justice,” on a theory that the system is inherently racist, poverty causes crime, and society is ultimately to blame for criminals. Crime victims by implication had it coming, and criminals are just misunderstood and should be freed after serving token sentences.

Two reactions evolved to stem the power of liberal judges and overzealous prosecutors who were making life easier for criminals. One was mandatory minimum sentencing. Legislatures passed laws tying the hands of judges so they had far less power to unleash violent criminals back onto the streets. Another was passing castle doctrine and stand your ground laws to codify the right of self-defense. These laws made it more difficult for prosecutors to grandstand and persecute Americans who had used force to defend themselves against violent criminals. State after state also passed concealed carry laws to enable Americans to exercise their Second Amendment right to carry firearms to defend themselves. This year, Illinois became the 50th state to pass concealed carry. Notably, its liberal Democrat governor, Pat Quinn, did everything he could to stop that law from passing. We would probably not have needed any of these laws had liberals simply respected the criminal justice system and the obvious and natural right of people defend themselves and their loved ones from lawbreakers.

As castle doctrine, stand your ground and concealed carry laws swept across the country, violent crime rates went down. Except, notably, in cities controlled by liberal Democrats, where strict gun control laws continue to tilt against the right of self-defense. Outside those cities, as Americans have increasingly exercised their right to bear arms and laws buttressed their right to defend themselves with deadly force if necessary, crime rates went down. Crime rates stayed down even when the economy faltered, contrary to a cherished leftist myth that poverty leads directly to crime.

Here we are in 2013, a nation with a weak economy and awash in guns yet our violent crime rate continues to go down. Up to now, criminals have operated knowing in the back of their heads that they might find themselves facing off against armed citizens. Liberals are now conspiring to remove that fear from the minds of criminals.