NYTimes editors want to go soft on teens caught with guns

(AP Photo/Philip Kamrass, File)

The incoherent and inconsistent position taken by the editors of the New York Times in their response to Mayor Eric Adams’ new crime-fighting plan is actually pretty common among gun control supporters, but rarely have I seen it expressed so succinctly. The Times editorial page is, of course, adamantly opposed to anyone carrying around a gun for self-defense, and is on the record as stating that the Supreme Court wrongly decided the Heller case back in 2008.

Yet, despite their authoritarian embrace of virtually every gun control scheme dreamt up by the likes of Michael Bloomberg and Joe Biden (or at least Biden’s handlers), the Times’ editors seem far more interested in putting new laws on the books than actually reckoning with what enforcing them looks like. Take this passage from their new op-ed, for example.

Mr. Adams’s immediate job is to direct the New York Police Department toward policing that targets violent crime. The mayor said the department would deploy more officers to subways and to the 30 precincts that have seen some 80 percent of recent violent crime. He also said the N.Y.P.D. will form a uniformed anti-gun unit to replace the long-troubled plainclothes anti-crime units, which were disbanded in 2020.

The challenge will be how to make the city safer without reverting to the overpolicing, especially in Black and Latino communities, seen under previous mayors. Mr. Adams promised better oversight of the new anti-gun units, and in the coming days, New Yorkers deserve to know more about what that oversight will be and how it will work.

… Other proposals by the mayor deserve more scrutiny. One of his ideas — allowing 16- and 17-year-old repeat offenders arrested on gun charges to be charged in criminal court instead of family court — should be a nonstarter.

What the New York Times editors refuse to acknowledge is that gun control laws and overpolicing go together like peanut butter and chocolate. And this overpolicing doesn’t end with the vast majority of stops where no gun is found. The city’s court system is clogged with hundreds of cases of individuals with no serious criminal history who are facing “violent felony” charges of carrying a gun without a license; a charge that carries a mandatory prison sentence of 3 1/2 years in New York, thanks to the efforts of Michael Bloomberg back when he was mayor.

The Times’ editors apparently don’t believe that the criminal court system is the proper place for 16- and 17-year olds who are caught illegally carrying a gun, even if it’s not the first time they’ve been busted doing so. Why then should a 21-year old who legally owns a firearm (or is legally eligible to do so) not only be charged in criminal court, but face years in prison for doing the same thing?

Perhaps the Times’ editors would argue that it’s different for adults; that 16- and 17-year olds just don’t have the mental maturity that an 18-year old has, and therefore family court is the proper venue to address their illegal gun possession. But that still doesn’t explain how the editors can believe that illegally carrying a gun is a serious crime that should be allowed to go unchecked as long as the perpetrators are juveniles.

It seems to me that, like the vast majority of the left, the Times’ editorial staff prefers not to think about what enforcing their favorite gun control laws actually looks like in practice, because it’s an ugly truth that’s better (in their minds, anyway) left unacknowledged. As several New York public defenders bluntly explained in their amicus brief arguing for New York’s carry laws to be overturned:

For our clients, New York’s licensing regime renders the Second Amendment a legal fiction. Worse, virtually all our clients whom New York prosecutes for exercising their Second Amendment right are Black or Hispanic. And that is no accident. New York enacted its firearm licensing requirements to criminalize gun ownership by racial and ethnic minorities. That remains the effect of its enforcement by police and prosecutors today.

The consequences for our clients are brutal. New York police have stopped, questioned, and frisked our clients on the streets. They have invaded our clients’ homes with guns drawn, terrifying them, their families, and their children. They have forcibly removed our clients from their homes and communities and abandoned them in dirty and violent jails and prisons for days, weeks, months, and years. They have deprived our clients of their jobs, children, livelihoods, and ability to live in this country. And they have branded our clients as “criminals” and “violent felons” for life. They have done all of this only because our clients exercised a constitutional right.

That’s what the New York Times wants to keep in place, while allowing 16- and 17-year olds to carry guns with little or no legal consequences.

I have a better idea. Why not concentrate law enforcement and community resources on the small number of individuals who are actually driving the violence, focus on illegal gun possession by prohibited persons, and finally recognize the right of the people (including the millions of people who live in New York City) to lawfully bear arms in self-defense by scrapping the city’s subjective and draconian permitting laws? Not only would that be far more effective at combatting violent crime than what the New York Times calls for, it would be both constitutionally sound and ideologically consistent… which probably guarantees the Times’ editors will never come close to adopting that position, even if the Supreme Court strikes down the “may issue” carry laws on the books in New York later this year.