It’s looking like New York City will end 2020 with the highest level of “gun-related violence” in 14 years. Shootings in November were up 112% compared to November of 2019, and for the year the city number of shootings and homicides are nearly double what they were last year. With violent crime on the upswing, the New York Times decided to investigate who’s carrying guns on the city’s streets and managed to land interviews with four guys who agreed to speak to the paper, though the Times isn’t using their names for obvious reasons.
Oddly, the report from the Times is generally better than the editorial page’s regular rants against the Second Amendment and law-abiding gun owners, though the news story does approvingly quote a prosecutor referring to guns as “killing machines” and an academic who talks about “gun culture” as an “American problem.” It’s still the New York Times, after all, but I can’t help but think that some of the paper’s readers may have been surprised to learn that the city’s gun control laws aren’t much of a deterrent to those who carry illegally.
The 21-year-old from Crown Heights whose uncle taught him to fire a gun said he didn’t have a stable home growing up. He moved from one relative’s couch to another in public housing in South Brooklyn until he became a teenager. “Was that normal?” he said. “I don’t know. That’s all I knew.”
His fear of a violent death started when he was in elementary school and learned that a boy who sat near him had been struck by a bullet meant for someone else.
“I knew then that either I was going to get someone out of here or someone is going to get me out of here,” he said. “My uncle was right.”
He obtained his first Glock pistol when he was about 13, stealing it from its owner, he said. Now years later, he spoke about losing four friends to gun violence so far this year, speaking in the matter-of-fact way soldiers talk about casualties of war.
I wish that the reporters for the Times would have specifically asked their subjects what they thought about the city’s gun control policies, but the story largely stays away from the topic, though one of those interviewed spoke about carrying a gun even after he’d been arrested on a weapons charge.
New York City has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country. A person must apply for a license to carry a handgun and a permit to carry a shotgun or a rifle, both issued by the New York Police Department, and most applicants are only allowed to have a loaded gun in their residences or businesses.
A conviction for criminal possession of a weapon can lead to a sentence of between three and a half to 15 years in prison.
The young man from Crown Heights said he was arrested when he was 19 after the police found an illegal gun in his apartment. As a result, he said, he does not have the option to get a gun license to buy a legal weapon. Still, he illegally carries an unlicensed gun because he has seen friends killed in street disputes.
“You think somebody is going to come and save you?” he said. “No. You got to save yourself, you feeling me?”
After reading the interviews with the four guys who illegally carry guns in New York City, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if the city actually decided to recognize the right to keep and bear arms, rather than treating it as a privilege to be kept behind lock and key.
By doing so, the city has created a culture where gun ownership is considered taboo, especially for those living in high-crime neighborhoods. The process of becoming a legal gun owner is, as the Times pointed out, one of the most restrictive in the nation, and a lack of gun ranges and gun stores helps to ensure that for the average citizen, the Second Amendment is off-limits in the five boroughs. It also helps to ensure that those who are breaking the law have little actual training with firearms, and places guns on a pedestal where they’re seen as must-have accessories for criminals as opposed to self-defense tools for the law-abiding.
It’s odd to me that city leaders like Mayor Bill De Blasio support the idea of giving drug addicts a safe place to shoot up, but are so opposed to having places where people can shoot safely. Gun control advocates have had far more to do with what “gun culture” looks like in New York City than Second Amendment activists, because it’s the gun control side that’s destroyed the culture of lawful gun ownership and replaced it with a culture that keeps gun owners in the shadows, and in many cases on the wrong side of the law.
Gun control laws create gun crimes, and if the city makes it impossible for the average person to carry, then some of those average residents are going to break the law because their concern for their personal safety trumps their concern about being arrested. If Mayor De Blasio and other “criminal justice reform” advocates on the City Council were truly serious when it comes to reforming the laws, they’d take a lot of the non-violent possessory offenses off the books and establish a way for the average New Yorker to exercise their right to both keep and bear arms for self-defense. Since I’m more likely to be elected mayor New York than the city is to willingly give up its gun control regime, Second Amendment supporters are going to have to rely on the courts to return the right to keep and bear arms back to city residents.