If you had told me a year ago that the right to bear arms would the biggest issue in a New York City Council race this fall, I would have laughed. Even after the Supreme Court’s decision in Bruen scrapped the “may issue” carry laws in NYC and NY state, anti-gun lawmakers ensured that the right to carry would exist more in theory than in practice with the “Concealed Carry Improvement Act” passed in Albany and the City Council in NYC approving new gun control measures of its own.
But it’s those restrictions, as well as the right itself, that are emerging as a key consideration in the 48th District ahead of the November 7th elections, after incumbent Inna Vernikov was charged with illegally carrying a gun on the campus of Brooklyn College while counter-protesting a pro-Palestinian rally earlier this month. As the New York Post details, Vernikov’s challenger is trying to make her bearing arms a campaign issue, though so far it doesn’t seem to be having a negative impact on Vernikov’s supporters or donors.
“I think she should put down the gun and pick up the phone for constituents,” quipped [Amber] Adler, who finished a distant third in the 2021 Democratic primary for the same council seat.
Vernikov’s camp insists Adler is fact-challenged and firing blanks.
Backers boasted Vernikov has devoted plenty of energy in office trying to push tough-on-crime legislation and opposing left-wing colleagues who cheered defunding the NYPD.
But Adler, whose top endorsements include the powerful United Federation of Teachers, said she believes Vernikov “greatly endangered every Jewish New Yorker” by bringing a gun to a protest.
“People are using this incident as a reason to hate Jews,” insisted Adler. “She’s fanning the flames of antisemitism.”
Vernikov’s campaign manager, David Storobin, said Adler “should be ashamed of herself” for “making such accusations.”
“It’s no wonder why she couldn’t get any support, not even from the Democrats, in any of her campaigns,” said Storobin, a former Republican state senator.
Despite calls from the far left for her to be removed from office over the gun incident, Vernikov continues to be endorsed by the Police Benevolent Association, Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, and many of the top local law enforcement unions.
It truly is disgusting to see Adler accuse Vernikov of aiding and abetting anti-Semitism for exercising her fundamental right to keep and bear arms, even if it was in a place designated as a “gun-free zone” by anti-2A politicians. It’s also telling that Adler and the far left appear to be the ones making the most noise about the arrest, with many rank-and-file police officers and their unions still backing Vernikov despite the fact that she’s facing felony charges.
It looks like Adler wants to make the election a referendum on gun control, but her strategy may very well end up backfiring.
Some observers say the gun flap is helping Vernikov.
“Most of her district sees her as a hero now with the war going on in Israel,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a longtime Democratic political consultant. “Many are conservative and have no problem with gun ownership.”
Vernikov, who has the Republican and Conservative lines, had outraised Adler in campaign funds as of Oct. 2 by more than 2 to 1: $269,390 to $132,271, according to their latest filings.
Vernikov has $71,262 on hand, and her campaign said that since her arrest she’s received another 22 yet-to-be-reported donations totaling over $10,000 and commitments from 15 other donors.
Adler’s campaign as of Oct. 2 was over $6,000 in debt.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Adler get a last-minute infusion of campaign cash from gun control groups, though they could also use their political action committees to run ads backing Adler or attacking Vernikov without directly contributing to her campaign.
Then again, if Vernikov looks to be in good shape to win another term on the New York City Council, maybe the gun control groups will take a flyer on providing Adler with some much-needed campaign funds. The last thing the gun control lobby wants is an embarrassing defeat in the heart of New York City, especially if the key issue turns out to be the anti-carry restrictions they loudly called for and praised once they were inacted.
If Vernikov had been accused of actually threatening anyone at the Brooklyn College rally I doubt she’d still be receiving the same stalwart support of law enforcement and many of her constituents, but there’s been no indication that the councilwoman did anything wrong other than bring her lawfully owned and carried firearm to a location where the city says it’s not allowed. In some parts of the city, I’m sure that would be an automatically disqualifying transgression, but in the 48th District, at least, voters appear ready to send a message of their own to New York City lawmakers… one that really would send a Second Amendment shockwave through the Big Apple: enough with the “gun-free zones” that come at the expense of our right to armed self-defense.