Five of the leading Democratic candidates for New York City mayor met on the debate stage Thursday night at the CBS Broadcast Center. WCBS reporter Marcia Kramer asked the candidates if they think guns should be taken away from police, and four of the candidates said no, with Maya Wiley said she was “not prepared” to answer that question at a debate.
MARCIA KRAMER: The next question is going to go to Maya Wiley. Miss Wiley, Attorney General Tish James is proposing legislation to limit cops from firing their weapons, use of force as a last resort. Now, some might ask, why not go all the way and take away the guns altogether like they do in 19 other countries where the bulk of the police force is unarmed?
MAYA WILEY: Well, look, you know, one of the things we have to do is acknowledge that the mayor’s job is safety. Safety is job one, and I’m going to keep New Yorkers safe when I’m mayor.
MARCIA KRAMER: Will you take the guns away from them?
MAYA WILEY: And that does mean that we want smart policing. I think we know that we have a problem with illegal guns coming into this city. We have the strongest gun control laws in the country, the issue is how they’re coming in. So we do want a police department that is focused on keeping them out of the city and off our streets.
MARCIA KRAMER: But will you take the guns away from the NYPD?
MAYA WILEY: I am not prepared to make that decision in a debate. I am going to have a civilian commissioner and a civilian commission that is going to hold the police accountable and make sure we’re safe from crime, but also from police violence.
MARCIA KRAMER: Ms. Garcia?
KATHRYN GARCIA: We have seen a real spike in crime– particularly gun violence– in this city. We have to keep New Yorkers safe regardless of the color of their skin, and that is why I have a plan to get guns off the street. And I certainly am not going–
MARCIA KRAMER: Will you take guns away from the police?
KATHRYN GARCIA: I’m not going to take guns away from the police. They are confronted with people who are criminals who have guns, and that is why my focus is making sure that we get guns out of the hands of criminals so we don’t lose any more children. The last thing any parent wants to find out is that their child has been killed by random gun violence.
It’s imperative to make sure that we have police focused on this, that we are increasing the size of the gun suppression division, that we have neighborhood policing, and that we do gun buybacks. Because when we do this, we make all of our communities safer, and that’s imperative for us to rebuild the economy. And I understand how to get this done because I’ve been a uniform manager. I understand uniform agencies and how to make them work.
MARCIA KRAMER: Mr. Stringer?
SCOTT STRINGER: We’re not taking guns away from the police. We’re going to make sure that we create a police force that focuses on rooting out violent crime and at the same time ensures the Civil rights of our young people, especially in our Black and Brown communities. Let’s face it, I’m a kid from Washington Heights. I grew up in the 1970s when there were 2,000 murders a year. I remember when the A train was a rolling crime scene. We’re not going back to that when I’m mayor.
But here’s what we’re going to do– we’re not going to think that every solution to criminal justice is a badge and a gun. We’ve got to invest in helping our kids stay away from the criminal justice and the prisons, and the way to do that is invest in kids with jobs and internships, making sure that they have an opportunity to be the kind of human beings that they want to be but they don’t have economic opportunity.
We have to walk and chew gum at the same time. And we need a mayor with real government experience, who’s not going to back down, and transform a public safety plan that’s going to make sure our neighborhoods prosper economically through the lens of social justice and, yes, to root out the violence because we must keep our city safe.
MARCIA KRAMER: Mr. Adams?
ERIC ADAMS: No, I would not. And it’s imperative that we have police that are properly trained. Marcia, I’ll never forget during what was called 8 Ps at the time, riding the subway from 8:00 PM at night to 4:00 AM in the morning during those times that Scott Stringer stated when there was a woman on the train, she had a knife trying to stab someone, swinging wildly. And I had to make a decision– do I draw my firearm with other passengers on it to strike them, or do I take actions? And I had to wrestle that knife away from her.
So it’s not about carrying the gun, it’s knowing how to have the proper training that you don’t harm innocent people and you don’t harm yourself. So no, I would not. We have an over proliferation of guns in our city, and we must make sure that we decrease the flow of guns in our city and have, what I believe, a unit that focuses on the illegal guns that are in our city.
MARCIA KRAMER: Mr. Yang?
ANDREW YANG: Of course not. The police need to be equipped to fight crime in any circumstance. And if anything, we need to go on a massive recruitment drive for new police officers. We’re losing about 5,000 officers to retirement. I was in Brownsville the other day, and someone said something to me that should be our mission. He said, I would love it if the police officer who is patrolling our neighborhood’s from our neighborhood and looked like me.
We need a 21st century police force that reflects the incredible diversity of our city. We should be recruiting very aggressively and ambitiously among Black and Latino communities, Muslim, Asian, Jewish women. If we do this, then we can ease the concerns of many New Yorkers, but also help lead to real safety, because right now, safety is the first step towards any recovery.
Every New Yorker I talk to is deeply concerned about the fact that we don’t feel safe on our streets, on our subways. We’re going to need the police to turn this around. My first act as mayor will be to go to the police and say, we need you, the city needs you. We need you to lead our recovery. We need you to do your jobs professionally, responsibly, and justly, and that’s how a recovery will begin.
MAYA WILEY: Marcia, can I get in on this one quickly on Brownsville?
MARCIA KRAMER: 15 seconds, 15 seconds.
MAYA WILEY: Critically important, because we were all in Brownsville for an interview with the–
MARCIA KRAMER: 15 seconds.
MAYA WILEY: –crime interrupters who said explicitly, not more police officers, more investment in community based organizations. The safest they ever felt was the five days they asked the police department to step back so they could prevent violence.
MARCIA KRAMER: Your time is up.