President Biden in New York on Thursday. (Detail. AP/Alex Brandon)
Republicans are reacting with skepticism — and sometimes scorn — to suggestions that President Biden’s initiative on gun-control will prove effective against crime.
During a visit to New York City Thursday, the president vowed to “destroy” the so-called iron pipeline that carries illegal guns to New York from southern states, often to be used in crimes, police say.
State Republicans instead stressed the need for changes to New York’s 2020 bail reform law.
Joined by the fellow Democrats — Governor Hochul, Mayor Adams, and Senator Gillibrand — Mr. Biden announced proposals to end gun trafficking, keep criminals off the streets, and add money for community policing.
“Illegal gun violence dwarfs every other consideration,” the head of the Citizens Crime Commission, Richard Aborn, told the Sun. “It is the single largest threat to safety in New York. It will soon replace Covid as a public safety threat and we really better have a whole-of-government response.”
The main focus on Thursday was the iron pipeline.
“Guns used to kill people in New York City aren’t made in New York City, they aren’t sold in New York City,” Mr. Biden said. “Shut down the iron pipeline.”
On this point, the president and Mr. Adams were in lockstep: “We are going to break and destroy the iron pipeline,” Mr. Adams said, “We’re going to stop gun trafficking.”
Ms. Gillibrand noted that “90 percent of guns used for crimes are trafficked guns.”
Democratic leadership also pointed toward new Department of Justice rules that would ban so-called ghost guns.
Mr. Biden called for legislation to require universal background checks prior to gun purchases and to ban assault weapons, as well as to eliminate liability exemptions for gun manufacturers.
The federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act prevents gun manufacturers and legal dealers from being sued for crimes committed with their products except in rare circumstances.
The president insisted that new rules would not “violate anybody’s Second Amendment right.”
He also rejected “defund the police” rhetoric, which has become popular with the left wing of the Democratic party. “The answer’s not to defund the police but to give you the tools, the training, and the funding,” the president said.
Critics, however, believe that no amount of funding will be enough if changes are not made to state law.
“New York State is the only jurisdiction to enact bail reform without allowing judges to consider a defendant’s public safety risk when deciding whether or under what conditions to release him pretrial,” Rafael A. Mangual, a policing and public safety expert, said.
Republicans offered their own prescriptions for fighting crime.
“The president’s visit is not more than a PR stunt to distract from the real problem,” the state Republican Party chairman, Nicholas Langworthy, said. “New York has thousands of gun laws on the books, what we don’t have is laws to keep criminals off the streets.”
Representative Nicole Malliotakis expressed similar sentiments: “A visit to New York City without addressing the main issue — which was releasing criminals back onto our streets — will not be successful.”
Mr. Aborn, who heads a nonpartisan watchdog group, agrees bail reform is needed.
“There is no single solution to the fight against crime but it is true that bail reform in a particular way is important,” he said. “Judges should be allowed to consider dangerousness when considering whether or not to set bail.”
He also recommended extending the time given to prosecutors to collect and present evidence in trials involving gun crimes.
Mr. Adams has publicly expressed support for changing the 2020 law that altered bail practices across New York State. Ms. Hochul has expressed more hesitation.
“If reforms are needed, based on data that is still being gathered, I’m willing to have those conversations,” she said.
Despite expressing opposing views during events Thursday in New York, it appears members of both parties agree with Ms. Hochul’s assessment of crime as “an American crisis.”
“There was a time in American politics when both parties united around forgein policy,” Mr. Aborn told the Sun. “It would be good if the parties could do that around crime because of the threat that crime poses to our communities and to the nation.”