New York City Mayor Eric Adams has kicked off his tenure by going all in on gun violence. Last month, he released his “blueprint” for tackling the problem. One of the new mayor’s first major policy initiatives, which has earned him rare positive reviews, Adams has heavily promoted the plan, including by hosting President Joe Biden for a high-profile tour and press conference.
Adams characterizes his “Blueprint to End Gun Violence” as taking an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach. The 15-page document describes gun violence as “flow[ing] from many rivers,” and asserts that ending it “will require both intervention and prevention”—that is to say, strict law enforcement coupled with measures to address gun violence’s economic and public health causes.
Adams has been cheered for charting a novel middle ground on the issue, tougher on crime but also willing to entertain reforms that complement law enforcement crackdowns. His approach is said to signal a turning tide against the demands of Black Lives Matter protests, evidence that municipal officials are finally pushing back against activists’ ambitious proposals to cut the scope and budget of the police.
But closer inspection reveals little new about Adams’s plan.
The aspects of Adams’s blueprint that focus on heavy policing and prosecution directly mirror plans put forward by former Mayor Bill de Blasio, who—despite his vocal opposition to stop-and-frisk tactics and occasional criticism of the NYPD—largely endorsed aggressive policing and prosecution tactics targeting gun violence.
The parts of Adams’s blueprint that focus on community engagement, economic opportunity, and mental health also borrow heavily from de Blasio’s administration. Unlike most of the enforcement measures, though, the violence prevention policies currently include few details, and the mayor hasn’t set a timeline for when to expect them.
Despite speculation that Adams represents a new era of mindful toughness on violence, the most likely course for public safety policy in New York City, at least in the short run, may be more of the same. While Adams’s victory has been framed as part of a backlash to recent criminal justice reforms, his plan for addressing gun violence, largely a rehash of his predecessor’s ideas, underscores how little has really changed since the 2020 protests.