Gun control advocates, following the NRA’s press conference on Friday, slammed the National Rifle Association’s response to the Newtown, Connecticut shooting. NRA CEO Wayne La Pierre told reporters:
We care about the President, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents. Members of Congress work in offices surrounded by armed Capitol Police officers.
Yet when it comes to the most beloved, innocent and vulnerable members of the American family–our children–we as a society leave them utterly defenseless, and the monsters and predators of this world know it and exploit it. That must change now!”
New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg called the press conference “shameful” and that it was an “evasion of the crisis facing our country. Instead of offering solutions to a problem they have helped create, they offered a paranoid, dystopian vision of a more dangerous and violent America where everyone is armed and no place is safe. Leadership is about taking responsibility, especially in times of crisis.”
New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo chimed in, saying, “Confiscation could be an option. Mandatory sale to the state could be an option. Permitting could be an option–keep your gun but permit it.”
Both Bloomberg and Cuomo come from the jurisdiction where major gun control legislation was established by New York State Democratic Senator Timothy “Big Tim” Sullivan. Sullivan became known as a Tammany Hall crook intent on protecting his mobsters from prosecution and disarming innocent civilians in New York State.
The Sullivan Act was passed in 1911 after a murder suicide shooting in Gramercy Park. The law mandated that New York residents must have police issued licenses for concealed handguns, otherwise it would be considered a felony. As Michael Walsh wrote in the New York Post:
In 1903, the Battle of Rivington Street pitted a Jewish gang, the Eastmans, against the Italian Five Pointers. When the cops showed up, the two underworld armies joined forces and blasted away, resulting in three deaths and scores of injuries. The public was clamoring for action against the gangs.
Problem was the gangs worked for Tammany. The Democratic machine used them as shtarkers (sluggers), enforcing discipline at the polls and intimidating the opposition. Gang leaders like Monk Eastman were even employed as informal “sheriffs,” keeping their turf under Tammany control.
The Tammany Tiger needed to rein in the gangs without completely crippling them. Enter Big Tim with the perfect solution: Ostensibly disarm the gangs–and ordinary citizens, too–while still keeping them on the streets.
In fact, he gave the game away during the debate on the bill, which flew through Albany: “I want to make it so the young thugs in my district will get three years for carrying dangerous weapons instead of getting a sentence in the electric chair a year from now.”
Sullivan knew the gangs would flout the law, but appearances were more important than results. Young toughs took to sewing the pockets of their coats shut, so that cops couldn’t plant firearms on them, and many gangsters stashed their weapons inside their girlfriends’ “bird cages”–wire-mesh fashion contraptions around which women would wind their hair.
Ordinary citizens, on the other hand, were disarmed, which solved another problem: Gangsters had been bitterly complaining to Tammany that their victims sometimes shot back at them.
So gang violence didn’t drop under the Sullivan Act–and really took off after the passage of Prohibition in 1920. Spectacular gangland rubouts–like the 1932 machine-gunning of “Mad Dog” Coll in a drugstore phone booth on 23rd Street–became the norm.
Walsh notes that Sullivan was already “suffering from tertiary syphilis when he wrote his law.” Sullivan went insane a little thereafter and was sent to a sanitarium. His severed corpse was found in the Bronx on some railroad tracks in 1913.
Thousands of gun control laws later, politicians like Mayor Bloomberg walk the streets of New York with armed security. According to a 2009 CBS News piece, Bloomberg, like his predecessors, is protected around the clock, “even when he’s not working.”
The mayor of the nation’s largest city is protected around the clock, even when he’s not working. He’s trailed on the golf course, at the theater, while visiting relatives for Thanksgiving dinner–with taxpayers footing the bill.
The report goes further into how many armed individuals usually protect Mayor Bloomberg:
Mayors typically are protected by a five- or six-person team of plainclothes detectives, including one who often goes ahead to secure the destination. There are generally three teams that rotate for the 24-hour job.
Bodyguards generally have stayed overnight with the mayor in Gracie Mansion, the city’s official residence. Bloomberg, a billionaire, has opted to stay in his own town house on a prime block of East 79th Street, where there is now a police booth.
Protection is available for a mayor’s family members, but the Police Department makes those decisions based on the individuals and any perceived threat against them.
When mayors travel, the costs of the security team are paid by the city. Bloomberg has taken the unusual step of covering their expenses when he takes personal trips.
One member of the mayor’s security detail, it should be noted, was charged for shooting his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend two years ago.
When Governor Cuomo’s security detail is not hitting pedestrians with their vehicles, he also receives 24-7 armed protection from New York State Troopers.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who blasted the NRA on Friday, said:
“It’s outrageous and unsettling that the NRA would choose to address gun violence not by taking assault weapons off our streets, but by adding more guns to our schools. That is not the right answer for our society, our schools and most importantly our children. People across this country, from small towns to big cities, are united and ready to pass common-sense gun control legislation. The time has come for the NRA to get on board or get out of the way.”
Yet Chicago’s CBS reported in June 2011 that city taxpayers cough up $3 million a year for uniformed police to protect its local politicians while innocent civilians downtown were facing gun violence daily:
Chicago has been hit with mob attacks in the downtown area, daily gun violence and a shortage of uniformed police officers to deal with it all, but some officers are protecting politicians rather than the public.
As CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, it is costing taxpayers $3 million a year.
Dozens of officers and millions of dollars are spent to protect the Mayor and a handful of other city officials. Is it money well spent or a luxury we can no longer afford?
On the South Side Thursday morning, Mayor Rahm Emanuel was accompanied by at least four Chicago Police officers, in two cars, as he left an event promoting summer safety for inner city students.
When CBS asked Emanuel about the outrageous spending on security for local politicians he responded:
Apparently, not much changed with Mayor Emanuel’s security detail. Eleven Chicago cops sued the city over the summer for being demoted off of Emanuel’s security team only to be replaced by Emanuel’s security from his campaign:
The color of your skin is your sin,” the police commander told one of the plaintiffs when asked why he was being demoted and the black officers were not, according to the suit.
The suit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Illinois, contains explosive accusations that the officers had their civil rights violated after Emanuel took office last year.
The officers charge that shortly after Emanuel was elected in February 2011, the city government began to bring people associated with the Emanuel campaign on board–both those who volunteered on Emanuel’s security detail during the campaign and others who were “politically involved.”
Opponents on both sides of the gun debate expect lawmakers in Washington to put forth proposals early next year that will establish their positions among their constituents as mid-term campaigning begins.
Photo credit: Chicago Now/Michigan Avenue Magazine