The shooting of a New Jersey man outside Penn Station during rush hour this week was the most recent iteration of a disturbing trend. Episodes of Midtown gunfire, specifically at tourist and commuter hot spots, have wounded out-of-town bystanders in at least three separate incidents since Mayor de Blasio announced this as the “Summer of New York City.”
In May, Farrakhan Muhammad, a CD hustler and career criminal, allegedly got into a dispute with his brother in Times Square, took out a gun, and started shooting. He hit three tourists, including a 4-year-old girl.
A month later, an unnamed 16-year-old got into an argument — also in Times Square — and began firing a gun. He missed his intended target but shot a Marine visiting the city from upstate with his parents.
This week’s mayhem outside Penn Station also involved an out-of-towner, who was shot after an as-yet unidentified man got into an altercation with someone inside the station. Pulling out a gun, the shooter missed his target and hit a 58-year-old man waiting for his wife on Seventh Avenue, near the entrance to Madison Square Garden.
These three incidents all occurred during daylight hours. The victims were all tourists or commuters. And the events that precipitated the shootings were trivial, everyday squabbles of the sort that are normally resolved with angry words, or which go unresolved with no consequences because the disputes are so low-stakes.
What is especially horrifying about these explosive episodes is that they were unplanned and totally motiveless. It would be bad if these shootings occurred because of a robbery or involved some planning, but at least we would be able to ascribe a rationale as to why they happened and, specifically, why the assailants were armed.
But there was no reason — not even a reason based on apparent intent to commit a crime — why any of these thugs was carrying a gun in the first place.
These incidents reveal starkly that New York City — which has systematically removed the tools by which the police can keep guns off the street — has become a place where it is now normal for nefarious characters to tote handguns, which they can brandish and use in case someone disrespects them.
By decriminalizing fare evasion, eliminating the NYPD anti-crime unit, limiting the use of stop-question-frisk, and imposing “informed consent” rules on all police interactions, the city’s progressives have hobbled street cops and given criminals effective license to carry guns at will. As in the Wild West, every beef or squabble now becomes proximate cause for a shooting.
Before de Blasio, intemperate, violent New Yorkers had reason to fear that sharp-eyed police would note the characteristic bulge of a gun in sweatpants or catch them jumping a turnstile while armed. But now they feel free to swagger around the city ready to blast at anyone who dares not show them proper courtesy or who gives them the stink eye.
In fact, the police have been discouraged from confronting any sort of disturbance. Penn Station has more people sleeping on the floors than commuters these days, and some mentally ill men who accost visitors or mutter profanities as they roam the halls. De Blasio and the City Council say they are not to be “bothered,” and social workers don’t force them into shelters or hospitals where they can receive help.
New York City desperately needs tourists and office workers to come back to Manhattan with a sense of confidence that they won’t get shot walking around major intersections. Any hope of rebounding from our downturn demands that the city get control of its central business district and end the noxious fog of impunity that has emboldened our criminal class.
Seth Barron is managing editor of The American Mind and author of the new book “The Last Days of New York.”
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