Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said he wants to see tougher sentences for gun crimes in New York City—and rejected the idea that more people legally carrying guns would make the city, or any jurisdiction, safer.
“If you use a gun in this city to shoot somebody, you should be going to jail,” Mr. Bratton told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer this morning, as opposed to diversion programs. “That’s a person I want off the streets, and want them up in prison, and we need to do a better job of that.”
Mr. Bratton’s comments come as many are pushing to end an era of so-called “mass incarceration”—using things like drug courts to sentence drug users to treatment rather than prison, or supervised release to reduce the number of people sitting in jail while they await trial. But it also comes after an NYPD officer was shot to death by a man with a long, but nonviolent, rap sheet who was on the streets after being sentenced to a diversion program for a drug crime, which led Mr. Bratton to make similar comments about diversion programs in the past.
“Well let’s face it: you shoot somebody in the face, that’s a little different than if you’re a drug abuser, drug user or even someone who is selling small amounts of drugs,” Mr. Bratton said, noting drug offenders seem to be over-sentenced while gun users seem to be under-sentenced. “I’m sorry, they need to be treated with every ounce of the justice system that we can apply to them to basically get them off the streets and keep them away from us.”
Mr. Bratton also rejected the notion that more people carrying guns might make people safer—something Mr. Lehrer noted several pundits had said in response to the terrorist attacks in Paris in November.
“I think we probably have more guns than we have people,” Mr. Bratton said of the United States, “and that doesn’t seem to be deterring a lot of people from committing murders and robberies and armed assaults.”
New York has extremely restrictive rules of carrying firearms—concealed carry permits are typically restricted to former law enforcement and security types, and openly carrying firearms is not allowed. Mr. Bratton said he was not “supportive of open-carry in any way, shape or form,” and noted it can lead to situations like the current stand-off in Oregon, where an armed militia is “effectively intimidating law enforcement and the government by the brazen display of that weaponry.”
Mr. Bratton was on Mr. Lehrer’s show to discuss year-end crime figures, which showed overall major crimes, including shootings, were down, but saw an increase of 17 murders. Former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who had served under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has recently accused Mr. Bratton’s NYPD of fudging the numbers on shootings in the city by redefining shootings, something Mr. Bratton has strenuously denied.
“We categorically rebut and have rebutted that. We created the description of shootings, what constitutes a shooting in New York City, in 1994 when I was commissioner the last time. In those 24 years since that time, that description of shooting has not changed—Commissioner Kelly was just flat-out wrong,” Mr. Bratton said, adding that Mr. Kelly has not been able to substantiate his claims. “I don’t have to play with the numbers. The numbers are what they are, and they’re good numbers.”