Mayor Eric Adams joined city leaders from across the country Wednesday to brainstorm solutions to surging gun violence. While many gun control measures have stalled on the federal level, the local mayors said they wanted to work together to curb shootings.
“We must have an ‘all hands on deck’ moment. That’s where we are,” Adams told reporters at a press conference at Gracie Mansion after the summit. “This epidemic of violence is sweeping our country, and in general is hurting every community .”
The mayors came from as close as Mount Vernon and as far away as Little Rock. The meeting was hosted in partnership with Everytown for Gun Safety’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns group, which Adams co-chairs, and the African American Mayors Association. Several leaders noted the importance of tackling an issue that disproportionately affects Black and brown people.
“This is what we’re seeing, because of the proliferation of illegal guns, crime guns that are in our community,” said Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard of Mount Vernon, who noted the high rate of gun homicides for Black women like her. “These crime guns are killing our young people. They are readily available. In some neighborhoods, you can buy a gun as quickly as you can buy a loaf of bread.”
Adams said the mayors discussed three main strategies to address gun violence: looking for clues on social media, taking action against manufacturers and dealers who let guns fall into the wrong hands, and sharing information between cities to trace the movement of firearms.
The mayors did not mention their specific plans to address the role social media plays in driving gun violence. However, New York state recently passed a measure as part of its slate of gun control reforms that will require people applying for handgun permits to turn over their social media handles.
Multiple mass shooters have posted violent content or hints of their plans online before taking action, including the man who opened fire on a New York City subway in April and the one who killed 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo. Arguments on social media can also spark everyday violence. Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said different agencies need to work together to look for the people who are most likely to commit gun crimes.
“This is not the 1990s. This is not something that our police officers are going to just know that someone’s going to be mad about someone stealing their girlfriend off Instagram and somebody’s going to shoot somebody,” he said. “We have to deal with this on both ends of the spectrum, make sure that we find out where every gun came from and who used it and how they got it, so everybody, from top to bottom, can be held accountable.”
Target manufacturers and sellers
In addition to looking for warning signs online, the mayors also hope to use multiple tactics to hold gun makers and dealers accountable. That includes lawsuits, which several cities – including New York – have already started to file.
The state created a law last year that allows New Yorkers to file suits against firearm companies when their marketing or sales practices pose a threat to people’s safety or health. Since then, a victim of the subway shooting has south Glock, which made the gun used that day. Both the city and the state attorney general’s office have also sued several sellers of so-called “ghost guns,” or unfinished firearm parts that people can buy and assemble on their own, without going through a background check. Several pieces of legislation recently made it illegal to sell or possess ghost guns in New York.
Gun groups have challenged the new statute that allows lawsuits against the industry, citing a 2005 federal law that bars legal action against the industry in most cases. So far, the legislation has held up in court.
As part of Wednesday’s meeting, the mayors reviewed an analysis of gun data from 12 of their cities, which found that more than half of the guns recovered at crime scenes in 2021 came from five manufacturers: Glock, Taurus, Smith & Wesson, Ruger and polymer80. Glock was the top source in most of the cities.
Shared gun trace database
The third prong of the mayors’ plan to prevent shootings is information sharing. The cities hope to create a database that would allow them to look up a recovered firearm and see its full history, including where it was made, who has sold it and bought it, and whether it has appeared at other crime scenes in the past.
New York already has a statewide system to share this intel. Participating mayors from different states would opt into a similar database that would allow them to track the spread of firearms, which are often brought across state lines.
Adams said today’s summit was just the first step and that he hopes even more cities will agree to work together in the future. As an owner of three guns, he said this is “not a battle against responsible gun ownership” – but rather, against irresponsible gun users and sellers.
“Guns have a purpose: to kill. That product is to kill, and it is doing what the intended purpose was,” Adams said. “Now, we must make sure that intended purpose, that product, is not continuing to devastate our communities.”