Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling to strike down a century old law in New York that limited the ability to carry a gun in public, faced immediate condemnation from state elected officials.
Gov. Kathy Hochul called the decision “reckless and reprehensible” and Mayor Eric Adams said it “has made every single one of us less safe from gun violence.” Adams joined Michael Hill on WNYC’s Morning Edition on Friday to discuss what’s next for New Yorkers.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
As you've acknowledged, a big part of public safety is the perception of safety. Some New Yorkers are celebrating this decision and, as you know, others are scared. What do you say to the New Yorkers who are nervous now? What does this decision actually mean for them in this moment?
Well, we must be honest and really reflect on this decision. The Supreme Court looked at our historical roles with guns in the country without taking into account the present crisis that we are facing and it’s going to endanger our future. This is a textbook case of theory colliding with reality. A gun in the hands of even a law-abiding citizen increases our danger and [is a] threat [to] public safety. And that is something [that] I believe the justices did not take into account.
The decision said weapons could still be prohibited in “sensitive places.” What would you define as a sensitive place?
Well, we have been meeting with our attorneys. We had a conversation with the governor and mayors of big cities in the state. And we have put together a coalition that will look at how we use our pre-existing laws to really, sort of, contain this crisis that the Supreme Court has created. A sensitive location, according to the attorneys, can be a school, a governmental building, but there are far too many other locations that are not in the area of a sensitive location. The Supreme Court clearly acknowledged you cannot state all of Manhattan [as a sensitive location]. So when you look at a place like Times Square. Last Monday, we had over 350,000 people visiting Times Square. Let's say just a third of them were carrying a gun. One person shoots a gun, everyone grabs for their gun. This is not Dodge city. This is New York City and they're not taking into account a densely populated city, like New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, etc.
Does this decision add more urgency to your plan to install weapons detectors at subway entrances? And are you considering the idea of putting them anywhere else?
Yes it does. Because remember the goal of having a weapons detector, particularly a gun detector, is to identify if someone is carrying a gun. We knew there was only a limited number of people that had carry permits [in New York City]. With this new ruling, the theory that only those who carry have carry permits; it goes out the window. And to be able to identify who's carrying a gun legally or illegally, it’s going to run into constitutional issues. Can you stop someone if you have identified them as carrying a gun and question them? There are many legal issues that are going to unfold because of this decision by the Supreme Court.
Will the NYPD undergo new training now to prepare for more encounters with people who may be armed? And would they ask to see someone's carry permit and to ensure that when they do seize guns through searches or stop and frisk, that their cases stand up in court.
And that's a great question. Because now we're going to have to evaluate [if there is] such a thing as a carry permit. Can we determine to have any type of records if someone carries a gun? All of these things are being questioned. Remember, this case was born out of New York state due to a question about a carry permit. And now all of this is up for rulings. There's going to be layers of court procedures that's going to follow. And that's what our attorneys are looking at now to see how … we move forward. And how do we use our laws here in the city and state to restrict the abuse of this ruling that was handed down by the Supreme Court.
Mr. Mayor, we've heard you and many other elected officials and others talk about the proliferation of guns and how easy it is to get them. How do you expect New Yorkers, for example, to protect themselves? And I go back to the April 12th train shooting in Sunset Park that sent defenseless subway riders ducking, hiding, running. Would it not have made sense for one of them to have had a gun to respond to the shooter, to minimize the harm?
And that's a great question because in theory, that is a good plan. In reality, that is a disaster. If you had a subway train crowded, as we saw with the shooter, and you had several people with guns – several, not one but several – that were allowed to carry guns, who knew through that cloud of the smoke gas, who knew who was shooting? Who would have known who to shoot and not to shoot? Everyone pulling out their guns or shooting where they think they should be shooting is creating a dangerous environment. That is a challenge of a city where you have large congregate settings. What happens is that one person pulls out a gun [and] starts shooting, [then] everyone pulls out a gun, [and] we move from New York city into Dodge City. And that is not what we need in a city like New York.
I want to be clear: I do not support everyday New Yorkers carrying guns.”
So how should a defenseless person on the street, walking down the street, someone has a gun, and the defenseless innocent New Yorker doesn't have a gun. What should he or she do?
That is the role of the police, a system that we have in place now. That is the purpose of having a law enforcement body: police officers, correction officers, parole officers, probation officers, court officers. We haven't –
Pardon me, Mr. Mayor. In calling the police, isn't it too late? If there's not an officer standing on the sidewalk standing right there. Isn't it too late to call the police? If someone pulls a gun on you and you're defenseless and you don't have anything to defend yourself with?
Well, think about this for a moment. Again, I always want to be clear: Theory and reality are different. The[re are] countless number of people who are untrained, [and] countless number of people who are trained. When someone pulls a gun on [you], your ability to pull your gun is not who can draw the fastest. Your ability to pull your gun and accurately shoot in this stressful situation is not what we see on TV. And so if someone accosts you with a gun and they try to rob you, the best thing you can do is give the person the property that they're asking for. And later have this person apprehended. This is not what's played out on the street … who could shoot the fastest, who could draw the fastest and who survives … that does not play out on the streets when you have these encounters.
So as the mayor of the largest city in the country, would you lean on making sure and requiring that people have the training to get guns so that they can defend themselves?
Well, uh, that's what we have to look at the current law. Can we restrict people based on training? But I want to be clear: I do not support everyday New Yorkers carrying guns. And it's not only those who are the victims of crimes. Let's remember this, a third of people who died from gunshots died because of suicide. We have a lot of accidental shootings because guns are in households, left on tables, left unsecured. This is more than just a criminal aspect of it.
You're dealing with – when you have a city that has a large number of guns – it could get in the hands of wrong people, innocent people, children … That is what this total picture must look like. Let's not only focus on those third that are dealing with criminal activity, but look at the other two thirds, that [are] not connected to criminal activity. [A] domestic violence situation or [a] dispute can elevate to a shooting as much as [how] many guns you have in your city. And that is what we're focusing on.