Kathy Hochul Bans National Guard From Using Rifles

By Ethan Cole on
 March 12, 2024

New York's bustling subway system, a lifeline for millions, is at the heart of a heated debate on safety and security.

According to the Daily Mail, Governor Kathy Hochul's recent actions to temper the military presence in subway stations have sparked widespread discussions.

Governor Hochul mandated a significant shift in policy, banning National Guard members from carrying rifles at subway bag check stations. This decision, driven by public concern over an increasingly militarized subway environment, reflects the tightrope officials walk between ensuring safety and maintaining public ease.

The ban was a swift response to the backlash that blew up online, where images of guardsmen wielding assault weapons amidst daily commuters unnerved many. This military-like presence in the subways had many New Yorkers feeling like their city had transformed into a "war zone."

A challenge to city safety or a necessary step?

In addition to the ban, some National Guard members will continue to hold long guns in specific subway areas, albeit not at the bag checkpoints. This nuanced approach aims to straddle visible security and a softer, less invasive presence.

Criticism of the militarized appearance wasn't limited to the general public. NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell and Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik voiced their concerns on social platforms, emphasizing the community's unease and advocating for different approaches to combating crime.

Kerik's stern critique highlighted the issue's complexity, suggesting that New Yorkers require an increased security presence and deeper legal and law enforcement reforms.

Reintroducing bag checks amidst rising crime

The safety strategies are unfolding amid Mayor Eric Adams's reintroduction of subway bag checks, a move prompted by a stark 13% rise in subway crimes. This spike in incidents has alarmed city officials and underscored the urgent need for effective, balanced safety measures.

Subway crimes in 2023, peaking at levels not seen since 1996, have included alarming incidents involving assaults on both a cellist and a subway conductor. Governor Hochul's deployment of 94 bag screening teams across 136 stations weekly represents a significant escalation in the city's effort to curb this trend.

While some compare these checks to the city's controversial stop-and-frisk policies, deemed unconstitutional nearly a decade ago, the current administration assures that the primary aim is to enhance commuter safety. The NYPD is now on the lookout for various weapons, extending beyond firearms to include knives, box cutters, and clubs.

Union leaders call for MTA accountability

The Transit Workers Union (TWU) has been particularly vocal, criticizing MTA executives for failing to adequately protect transit workers. With an alarming near 60% increase in assaults against transit employees last year, union leaders are demanding more action and accountability from transit authorities.

John Samuelsen, the TWU President, encapsulated the union's stance, highlighting both the urgency of confronting the violence epidemic and the perceived negligence of MTA executives in safeguarding their workers.

Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik offered a piercing critique of the situation, stating:

This is all a farce! You’re going to harass law-abiding citizens, and the thugs carrying a 40 cal, or 9 mm, walk right by you because they’re not carrying a bag! Stop the theater! Repeal or eliminate bail reform, lock up the thugs, and sentence to the max. The NYPD knows their job! Give them the tools and laws they need to do the job and we won’t have this problem!

Indeed, as New York grapples with these complex challenges, the dialogue among city officials, law enforcement, and the public continues to evolve. The recent policy changes and enforcement measures reflect a broader struggle to balance the imperatives of public safety with the values of a vibrant, open society.

Conclusion

Governor Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams's combined efforts to address subway crime through restricting National Guard armament at bag checks and reintroducing subway bag checks have ignited debates on security and freedom.

As New York navigates these turbulent waters, the focus remains on finding a middle ground that ensures the safety of its citizens while respecting their rights and maintaining the city's dynamic spirit. This story encapsulates the broader challenges cities face in an era where public safety concerns increasingly collide with concerns over civil liberties and community trust.

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