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Law enforcement experts are raising their eyebrows over New York City’s “gun free zone” law, which established a perimeter lined with laminated signs prohibiting the public from carrying firearms within, as one longtime police executive said the new legislation doesn’t “make sense” and is “extremely confusing.”
“I didn’t like the idea of setting up special zones where permitted gun carrier holders could not go,” said Terence Monahan, formerly the highest-ranking uniformed member of the New York Police Department.
“The people who are doing the crime in the city, the people who are killing each other, are not the guys with licenses.”
Monahan spent just months shy of 40 years with the NYPD before he retired as Chief of Department in 2021. He said when he first heard the news of the “gun-free zones,” it “didn’t make sense.”
“It’s going to make things very confusing for police officers on the street dealing with it,” he told WHD News Digital. “If someone is law enforcement, retired law enforcement, they’re allowed to have firearms in these zones. But other permit holders have to stop at a certain street and turn around if they have their firearms, can’t go into certain stores or locations.”
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Monahan further called it “an extremely confusing law,” and said police should be focusing instead on the illegal gun-holders.
“In 40 years of policing, the main thing I always wanted was that illegal gun carrier – someone who never had a permit, someone who’s out there looking to do harm with that gun,” he said. “That’s what the police need to focus on.”
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Just last week, New York City Council officially defined the perimeter of the zone from Sixth to Ninth avenues and West 40th to West 53rd streets, local news station NY1 reported. New York City Mayor Eric Adams first announced the state legislation at the end of August.
The law took effect September 1 in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that shot down the state requirement that people show their specific need for a gun in order to be granted a concealed carry permit in New York City. Justices wrote that the mandate violated Americans’ Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms.”
While it loosened the requirements for those who want to carry concealed weapons in New York City, New York State responded by adding more requirements for city permit applicants – including requesting applicants share information regarding their social media accounts and complete training courses – and establishing the “gun-free zones.”
In addition to Times Square, the City also barred guns from being brought into other “sensitive areas,” such as churches, parks and theaters.
But not without some pushback. Brooklyn City Council Member Kalman Yeger argued Wednesday that the council neglected to fully address the citywide gun violence, NY1 reported.
“The people who are doing the crime in the city, the people who are killing each other, are not the guys with licenses,” Yeger said, according to the report.
Monahan echoed Yeger’s sentiment, telling WHD News Digital that a criminal who wants to bring a gun into Times Square “is going to carry that gun into Times Square, same as he is going to carry it into a development somewhere in Brooklyn in [Bedford-Stuyvesant].”
“You’re not going to prevent that based on these laws, but you will prevent a law-abiding citizen who rightly got his permit from walking into that area,” he went on.
Monahan also stressed that he was not “looking to see citizens arming themselves or using firearms.”
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“That’s not what we need. We have 35,000-plus New York City police officers out on the street. We don’t need the confusion of anyone pulling out a gun.”
‘GREAT WHITE WAY’
New York City is still rebounding from the drastic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, both on the tourism industries and on the commuter lifestyle – both of which were effectively drawn to a halt for months at a time.
A record 66.6 million out-of-staters visited New York City in 2019, and spent $47.4 billion while there, according to the New York State Comptroller’s Office. The $72 billion tourism industry from 2019 plummeted, data show.
About 34.6 million people visited New York City in 2021, and 56.4 million are expected to visit by the end of 2022, city tourism department NYC & Company reported.
Meanwhile, the city is also seeing the continued re-emergence of office-goers returning to work, including those who will be passing through Times Square.
NYPD data shows crime was down during the most recent week-long period, which ended on September 18. But total index crime remains up by 34.2% as of the 18th, the police figures show.
John Jay College of Criminal Justice adjunct professor Joseph Giacalone called the gun-free zones “low-hanging fruit” and told WHD News Digital he believed people viewed them as “a joke.”
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“Even if it did stop people in Times Square, stop criminals in Times Square carrying guns, the subways are still a problem,” said Giacalone, also a former NYPD detective sergeant. “You can bring as many signs as you want. Listen, we still have no parking signs and people still double park … signs don’t do anything.”
WHD News Digital’s Matteo Cina contributed to this report.