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Mayor Eric Adams says gun violence is everyone's problem. Here's how NYC tackles it

New York City Mayor Eric Adams testifies during a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on gun violence in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.
Jason Andrew
New York City Mayor Eric Adams testifies during a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on gun violence in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.

Updated June 10, 2022 at 10:42 AM ET

The recent spate of high-profile mass shootings, including in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas, has fueled some federal efforts to pass gun control legislation.

This week, the House passed a bill that would raise the age limit for purchasing a semi-automatic rifle and prohibit the sale of ammunition magazines with a capacity of more than 15 rounds. It passed along party lines and is not expected to become law. Meanwhile, Senate negotiators are debating a narrow set of proposals addressing things like school safety, mental health programs and incentives for states to create red flag laws.

The tragedies have also spurred some changes at the state level, like New York's bill raising the age to buy and own semi-automatic rifles to 21. New York has some of the toughest gun laws in the country — though an impending ruling from the Supreme Court could soon overturn its concealed carry restrictions.

Testifying before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Wednesday, New York Mayor Eric Adams — a former law enforcement officer — said it is "high noon in America" and called on Congress to enact what he described as common sense gun reform.

Those measures include regulating or banning assault weapons, enhancing background checks and directing more funding to states and localities for healthcare, childcare, education and housing.

"We are facing a crisis that is killing more Americans than war," he said. "A crisis that is now the No. 1 cause of death for our young people. A crisis that is flooding our cities with illegal guns faster than we can take them off the street."

He said while the New York Police Department has taken over 3,000 illegal guns off the city's streets this year alone, "the guns just keep coming."

Adams spoke to Morning Edition about why gun violence is "everyone's problem," and how New York City is tackling it.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Interview Highlights

New York City's gun violence problem isn't unique or isolated

Well, I think that the question is not only New York City, but across the entire country. We are seeing the over-proliferation of guns. We're seeing a system that is currently feeding young people to this type of violence because of the accessibility to guns, lack of supportive services and really not a dual approach of what I call intervention and prevention.

Lax laws in other states are causing the crises in Chicago, the crises in Atlanta, Detroit, St. Louis, New York, San Francisco. They're feeding these guns into our city. We have one gun that was stolen out of a car in Virginia that was used in five incidents, including shooting two people.

On how New York City is addressing gun violence

Intervention is what we're doing on neighborhood safety teams, getting police officers interacting with those who are carrying guns, because we must take them off the streets and get support from the other arms of the criminal justice system ... And you must be on the ground to do that.

We removed over 3,000 guns off our streets [this year]. We're seeing a 30% decrease in shootings and in homicides during the months of April and May. We're seeing the byproduct of the plan we put in place. We're saying to every agency in this city: "Gun violence is everyone's problem, and we all must have a solution to it."

On gun rights advocates' argument that a person is safer if they can carry their own firearm

Well, first of all, it's clear that those who are in states where you have free gun laws, police officers are three times more likely to be murdered by guns in that state. And so when you look at people who state that you're safer because a civilian or an innocent person is carrying a gun, it just is not true.

Guns kill people not only due to violence, but also a substantial number of people who die due to suicide ... People sometimes have a tendency when they carry guns, they feel they should use the gun. Some basic disputes can turn into a gunfight of legal gun carriers, like we're seeing basic disputes on our streets turning into gun fights with illegal gun carriers. It's time for us to realize that our babies are dying because of the fixation of those who are gun manufacturers, and the talking points of the NRA.

On whether Adams, a moderate Democrat, sees his gun control advocacy as progressive

I don't use that term, progressive. I don't even know what it means anymore. I am a sensible, pragmatic, elected public official. And what I believe in: making sure we get our guns off streets. I also believe in making sure we rid our dangerous people off our streets.

That is the problem we're facing in America. The far-left that believes no one should be held accountable for their criminal actions is now competing with the far-right that believes that guns should be given to anyone that desires to have one. They are shooting at each other with their dispute, while innocent Americans and New Yorkers are caught in the crossfire.

And so I think the overwhelming number of New Yorkers support my beliefs and positions. They believe in pragmatic, sensible gun laws. They surely don't believe that dangerous people should remain on our streets. So let's get rid of the labels of the far-left and the far-right, and let's do what's right for America and keep our children safe.

This interview was produced by Ziad Buchh and Sean Saldana, and edited by Natalie Schachar.

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Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.