New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul are launching a new Interstate Task Force on Illegal Guns to root out dangerous criminals who possess firearms outlawed in the Empire State. Soon there will be hundreds of specially trained officers spread across the city, with facial recognition tech and unspecified “new tools that can spot those carrying weapons” at the ready. Could a similar task force soon come to a city near you?
“America’s men in blue are dying in record numbers,” Liberty Nation’s Leesa K. Donner explained after an NYPD tribute to slain officer Jason Rivera on Jan. 28. The 22-year-old rookie was the fourth cop killed this year in New York City, and Adams is determined to put a stop to the killing by focusing on the weapons. Rivera and his partner, 27-year-old Wilbert Mora, were shot while responding to a domestic call in Harlem. Mora later succumbed to his wounds, becoming number five. The gunman, who was hit twice by a third officer, also died in the hospital.
Hochul first announced her intention to attack the flow of guns into the state during her Jan. 5 “state of the state” speech, but the Jan. 21 shooting proved a useful platform to officially announce the task force. “We have a moral obligation to do everything we can to fight the scourge of illegal guns on our streets,” the governor said in a statement.
During a press conference, Adams said:
“It is time for us to save our city … We need Washington to join us and act now to stop the flow of guns into New York City and cities like New York.”
The Guns and the Law
So what made the cop-killer’s gun illegal? First, the shooter had a criminal record, which included assaulting police; any firearm in his possession was not legal. But specifically, the Glock pistol, chambered in .45 ACP, had been reported stolen in Baltimore in 2017 and sported a 40-round magazine. In New York, handguns can’t bear a magazine that holds more than ten rounds – and can be loaded only to seven. Adams made the firearm the issue when he held up a photo and declared to the public, “This is the gun that killed our young officer Friday night.”
Investigators later found what NYPD News called an “AR-15-type assault weapon” under a mattress. Adams shared a photo of this as well. With 19 rounds in magazine, it, too, would be considered illegal under the NY SAFE Act. While some reports called the AR an assault rifle, it is a pistol build, meaning criteria for handguns, not rifles, apply. As such, it’s considered an assault weapon under NY law because of the barrel shroud, the magazine well outside the grip, and the threaded barrel.
The Task Force and Its Toys
Across the state, law enforcement agencies will “share intelligence and strategies” to stop the trafficking of illegal guns. The governor’s office also said it would work with neighboring states Ohio, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. The governor asked for $9 million to hire new recruits and gun-tracing analysts, promising $4 million to buy software designed to track illegal guns and standing in stark contrast to the old “defund the police” narrative. In New York City, Neighborhood Safety Teams will travel in unmarked vehicles and wear a hybrid of plainclothes and police uniform, as well as bodycams, which must be turned on any time they pursue suspects.
The teams will be deployed out of the 30 precincts where 80% of the city’s violence takes place. The 20 most dangerous neighborhoods will see safety teams within a few weeks, but Adams says there will be “boots on the ground, on every block in this city.” The mayor also explained that officers will have access to a wide and potentially invasive range of technology.
It’s unclear just how many officers will end up in the new unit, but Adams told reporters there were 400 “in the pipeline.” As a frame of reference, there were about 600 undercover officers in the plainclothes unit disbanded in 2020.
Adams called the situation a “failure on the federal level,” and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) agreed. He said that the new task force will work only if the federal government gets involved and if the ATF and other agencies have the resources to “choke off crime.”
“I am pushing for $1.5 billion in federal funds for the agency, so they can help this work and do much more at the national level,” the senator said Jan. 29. “[W]e need full impact to address the flow of these crime guns in our communities and across our state.”
But the national ramifications are more than simple tax funding. Notice Schumer’s call to do “much more at the national level.” And Adams’ plea for “Washington to join us and act now to stop the flow of guns into New York City.” It’s clear both leaders have nationwide ambitions.
Of course, the establishment of a U.S. task force would have about as good a chance of clearing Congress as a new national firearm restriction itself. But $1.5 billion in ATF funding might actually fly if tucked into a larger spending bill.
Soon New Yorkers will have hundreds more officers roaming the streets trained and equipped with new tech to spot the armed. And if Adams, Schumer, and those like them have their way, these task forces could soon pop up in cities coast to coast.
~ Read more from James Fite.