After the Weekend Killing of a Cop, Adams Targets the ‘Iron Pipeline’ of Weapons Entering the City from the South
The words are angry and tough about getting guns off the streets, particularly in New York City. The actions are a little more difficult to see.
After Friday’s fatal shooting of a 22-year-old New York Police Department officer and wounding of two others who were responding to a domestic violence complaint in a Harlem apartment, new Mayor Eric Adams called for Washington to make changes in gun laws. The fatal shot came from a gunfire apparently stolen in Baltimore, the shooter’s former home, police said.
“We need Washington to join us and act now to stop the flow of guns in New York City and cities like New York,” Mayor Adams told an angry gathering at Harlem Hospital of hundreds of police officers. “We don’t make guns here. How are we removing thousands of guns off the street, and they still find their way into New York City? In the hands of people who are killers, constantly carbon highways of death, destroying our communities.”
Gun owners and their representatives in Washington and state capitols are committed against any legal actions to stop, alter or control ownership of guns up to assault-style rifles or ammunition.
It’s a call echoing around the country. Following last week’s Texas synagogue hostage showdown with a British terrorist seeking to free an imprisoned Muslim woman, the FBI is on the hunt for the illegal gun. In New York, two other police officers were shot earlier this month, and an 11-month-old infant was killed by an errant bullet. In Maryland, a high school teen is facing charges as an adult for they attempted killing of another student with a “ghost” gun.
Earlier this month, a Brooklyn gang was bragging on social media about its access to weapons, apparently as a recruitment tool. Among the weapons displayed that day was one used in the fatal shooting of an 18-year-old college student at a Brooklyn bodega that turned out to be a case of mistaken identity.
The incidents could have easily been Chicago or Houston or San Francisco, which all have recorded recent shootings on the rise.
It is doubtful that any of the guns involved were obtained through what we understand to be the legal process with minimal checks.
In all the angry words shouted into the night by police, community, politicians and others, it remains unclear exactly what Mayor Adams or other officials are doing or want done to stop the import of guns from legal states into their cities, where they are now illegal, but just as deadly.
Too Many Guns
We all know that America is awash with guns and that gun owners and their representatives in Washington and state capitols are committed against any legal actions to stop, alter or control ownership of guns up to assault-style rifles or ammunition.
We can’t get a law or regulation passed that requires gun safety, that extends background checks for purchase or that stops gun ownership for people with domestic violence records or contacts with mental health authorities.
But these are “illegal guns” we’re talking about in these attacks, that is, guns purchased outside legal avenues with no background checks, no training and intended for bad guys on the street. We know for sure that people are injured and killed with these illegal guns; there is no subtext here about the hunting of animals or recreational target shooting. Lately, we’ve been hearing more about “ghost” guns arriving through the mail as assembly kits or 3-D manufactured plastic guns – all unregulated weaponry for the streets.
We also know that we have had too many suicides, accidents and intended deaths, even mass killings, that have involved properly registered weapons.
“Ninety percent of these guns don’t come from New York. They come along I-95 — they come from states with lax gun laws,” New York Attorney Generalized Letitia James said at a recent gun buyback event.
Illegal firearms come up Interstate-95 in a trafficking operation known as the Iron Pipeline. The route often treks weapons legally purchased in states like Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Those weapons get delivered illegally in big cities up and down the East Coast along the I-95 corridor.
Just what law does Mayor Adams or his counterparts in the other big cities want Congress to consider before ignoring a positive outcome? Politicians, particularly Republican politicians active in stopping gun legislation, make sure we understand that the Second Amendment has been sufficiently reinterpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court to mean that guns are a state matter, especially in states which think it is fine to carry a gun into bars and church.
It is hard to see what Washington will do or can do about illegal weapons.
Indeed, the pending Supreme Court case involves a challenge that would permit more “legal” guns to be carried openly in New York under the shield of self-protection. How does a cop with a fraction of a second to act know whether a gun is legal or illegal?
As a candidate and in his first weeks, Adams, a former NYPD police captain, distinguished himself among political rivals by talking tough, but we’re waiting for the substance. Adams said his priority is tackling the rise in gun violence that began early in the pandemic.
Adams is channeling people like Jackie Rowe-Adams, whose group Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E., think government is way too lax in getting guns off the street. She is a persuasive voice having lost two sons to shootings.
Among his vows have been to add 500 to 600 more police officers to the city’s subways, reinstate a plainclothes anti-gun unit that had been disbanded after excessive-force complaints, and crack down on gangs and crews. He likely would continue to work with the Joint Firearms Task Force of the local Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives to trace guns to their point of purchase.
Reinstating the plainclothes police unit as a special anti-crime street unit is controversial. Adams says the unit would “zero in on guns and gangs. We’re going to use precision policing to identify the gang members, the crews,” he said. But that same approach was dismantled in 2020 after its stop and frisk tactics were declared unconstitutional. Residents and civil rights advocates had complained for years that the unit used excessive force and that it targeted people of color who it found “suspicious.”
According to the New York Civil Liberties Union of the nearly 700,000 NYPD stops in 2011, 780 guns were seized. Last year, NYPD made 4,000 street arrests.
Adams has not said how this will be different, but in various remarks has said its officers will wear body cameras, receive more training and face consequences for police who overstep. Adams helped lead the backlash against the units after officers killed an unarmed Black man, Amadou Diallo, on his porch in 1999.
Adams has also promised to prevent gun violence before it happens by addressing social issues like homelessness, poverty and food insecurity. He has proposed significant investments in turning shuttered hotels into permanent housing. He’s also promised to rebuild the city’s crumbling public housing infrastructure and address food deserts and food insecurity.
We await the substance.