New York’s political leadership crossed the line into self-parody this week with a series of hollow stunts meant to demonstrate how serious it is about confronting the wave of random violence terrorizing the city. Instead of calling for aggressive policing and the use of proven law-enforcement tactics, pols dodged the issue by demanding the federal government, sign-makers, red-state governors — someone! — rescue them from the flood of disorder drowning the city.
As part of their comedy routine, Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams announced — in a rebuke to the forces of chaos supposedly assailing New York City from hundreds of miles away — that signage at Times Square will identify it as a “Gun Free Zone.” Insisting that the Supreme Court’s recent “reprehensible” ruling letting legal local gun owners carry their weapons “makes New Yorkers unsafe,” Hochul signed laws barring permitted gun owners from carrying arms in bars or restaurants, on subways, in parks, theaters, churches — basically anywhere.
Hochul’s and Adams’ emphasis on punishing lawful, licensed gun owners for their own failure to deal with violent crime is a distraction and a hoax. It makes as much sense as spanking your well-behaved child because the naughty one stole your wallet, took the car and is out joyriding. It has nothing to do with public safety. It is motivated only by spite and a bid for relevance by politicians too weak or inept to do anything real about the city’s grave problems.
Crime in New York City’s new “gun-free zones” is not driven by legal gun ownership. Andrew Abdullah, who allegedly killed Daniel Enriquez on a Q train in May, did not have a permit to own a gun. Farrakhan Muhammad, the CD seller who shot three bystanders while arguing with his brother in Times Square in 2021, was not a legal gun owner. And neither was Avon Darden, the 16-year-old who was shooting at a Times Square breakdancer who dissed him — but missed and hit a US Marine visiting New York with his family last year.
Everyone — including Hochul and Adams — knows that legal guns and their owners are not the problem. The NYPD has granted about 40,000 New Yorkers “premises” permits allowing them to have a gun in their home. The licensing protocol is the strictest and least forgiving in the nation. The NYPD turns down around five applicants for each one it approves.
On the other hand, the NYPD estimated in 1993 that there are at least 2 million illegal guns floating around New York City. One can only imagine what the number is now.
People who own illegal guns and carry them around, either with the intention of using them to commit crime or in case someone shows them disrespect, are not going to be put off by the presence of warning signs that Times Square is a “Gun Free Zone” or by Hochul’s announcement that it is illegal to carry guns to the strip club.
Adams keeps trumpeting numbers about gun seizures. The mayor announced recently that “the NYPD has seized approximately over 4,700 guns off the streets of New York this year.” That’s fine — it’s basically the rate we were at 15 years ago — but it’s way lower than what the cops were doing in the mid-1990s, when they were seizing about 15,000 “crime guns” annually.
Instead of fighting to bring back stop-and-frisk — the constitutionally authorized tactic of stopping people behaving suspiciously and patting them down for officer safety — which is a proven means of getting guns off the street, Adams deflects by demanding federal intervention and insisting that red-state governors join him in a national crackdown on gun ownership.
“The governor and I are joined at the hip and making sure that we have strong laws to deal with these real crises that we are facing,” Adams proclaimed. “Gun problems in New York City is a national problem. It’s a national problem.”
Not really. Gun problems in New York City are an Eric Adams problem, as he might put it if he were honest. The guns are already here. Even if no new guns entered the five boroughs, we still have enough to arm every New Yorker between the ages of 10 and 30.
We need our elected leaders to get real, quit pretending that signs and shrill speeches will end crime and stop demanding federal intervention in what is definitively a local problem.
Seth Barron is managing editor of The American Mind and author of “The Last Days of New York.”