Democrats and police departments need to do better at forging alliances when it comes to gun violence, Mayor Adams said Thursday morning, a day after testifying before Congress about the impact of guns on New York City.
Adams, during an appearance on MSNBC, positioned himself squarely as a moderate in the gun debate, saying the vast majority of Americans — himself included — are caught in middle of a political crossfire between the far left and the far right.
“You have the numerical minority on the far right, trying to put guns in the hands of everyone, and then you have a small number that’s on the far left that believes we should not hold people accountable after committing crimes,” Adams said. “They are shooting at each other, and caught in the middle are the everyday New Yorkers and Americans that are tired of this over proliferation of guns.”
The mayor suggested that one remedy for this could be for Democrats, who are often more inclined to talk about long-term criminal justice solutions — like affordable housing, education and social programs — to focus their attention on creating alliances in the area or “intervention,” or police response.
Adams was responding to a question about what could be done to forge a stronger alliance between Democratic politicians and the police. He responded by pointing out that even in states that are controlled by Republicans, the cities in those states are often by-and-large dominated by Democrats.
“It has been a historical, big mistake that the Democrats talk about the prevention for the most part — many of the Democrats, they talk about the long-term things we must do — but the intervention is right now,” he said. “You look at these red states — they are under fire — but it’s the cities within these red states that are dealing with the violence. And I think it’s time for Democrats to understand that part of the apparatus of the public safety and justice include the men and women who are placing themselves on the front line.”
For months now the mayor has decried gun violence in the city and the rest of the country. He’s touted the fact that the NYPD has removed about 3,000 guns from the streets since taking office. And he has revamped a police department unit focused on removing guns from the hands of criminals.
But the calls for him to do more have only intensified, especially in the wake of mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas.
Last week, Adams announced the appointment of a “gun czar” in the city, Andre Mitchell, who has long worked as a violence interrupter in Brooklyn and who appeared with him Thursday morning on MSNBC.
Mitchell represents a continued effort at what Adams likes to classify as “prevention” — as opposed to “intervention” by the police — in the form of reformed gang members and other credible neighborhood leaders attempting to nip violence in the bud before it happens.
It’s a tactic that’s often ridiculed by Republicans, but proponents of violence interrupter programs, such as Man Up!, which Mitchell has led for years, contend they’ve shown real results. President Biden has also embraced violence interrupters as a solution on the local level.
On Thursday, while Adams was stressing the intervention aspect of attacking the gun problem, Mitchell focused on the prevention piece of that equation.
“It’s unfortunate that young people and communities across the country have more access to guns than they do jobs [and] opportunities,” he said. “Resources — that seems to be the best approach to dealing with that issue.”
Mitchell, who was convicted of first-degree manslaughter in 1988 and was paroled in 1992, came under fire in 2019 after the city’s Department of Investigation accused him of misusing public money and putting family members on the Man Up! payroll.
After the announcement that he’d become gun czar last week, he denied that Man Up! engaged in any criminality and said the non-profit complied with all the recommendations DOI made in its report.
Adams defended him then, and he did so again on national television Thursday.
“Look at my background. I mean who are we kidding here?” he said. “People knew of my background. They knew of the troubles I had as a child. They knew that I was dyslexic. They knew that I was arrested as a young man, and they said we want you to be the mayor of the City of New York because the life you lived is the life people are living now. We should be happy that we have someone that transformed the arc of his life and now is a productive citizen saving the lives of others who went on the wrong path.”
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