President Biden attended a rare New York City “gun” show Thursday — grasping the muscular arms of Queens violence interruptor Shyism Bryant and marveling at the “guns.”
“I tell you what, man — that man’s got some guns!” the president said after grabbing Bryant’s bulging biceps during a handshake-turned-hug.
“Yeahhh!” the reformed drug dealer agreed — before Community Capacity Development executive director K. Bain, chimed in, “No, no more guns. No more guns.”
Biden, who was visiting the city to address surging violent gun crimes with Mayor Eric Adams, approached Bryant again for another squeeze of his arms.
“No, no, no — I mean, I mean these guns, these guns,” he said. “Poor choice of words.”
Bryant went on to tell the president about teaching self-discipline to at-risk youth and helping them achieve positive goals.
Bryant is a former drug dealer who spent 13 years in state prison, according to a 2017 article in the New York Times. He told the paper it was essential to take weapons out of the equation of urban disputes. “I said, ‘You gotta put away the guns,’” he said.
Biden’s distracting remark during a visit to a Queens school followed a stop at NYPD headquarters in Lower Manhattan, where the president and New York Democrats took turns attributing soaring violent crime to less strict gun laws in the South and on relatively uncommon homemade “ghost guns.”
Republicans generally argue violent crimes such as murder and carjacking soared last year in major cities including New York due to lax punishment for criminals.
Biden noted at the earlier event that he requested more funding for “community policing” — framing that is more amenable to the Democratic Party’s left wing, which rallied behind calls to defund or abolish police after the 2020 murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin.
The White House’s annual budget in May asked Congress to approve $651 million — a $265 million increase — for the Justice Department Office Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), of which $537 million would go toward helping jurisdictions hire more cops. That request hasn’t yet been adopted.
In June, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced a “zero tolerance” policy for “rogue” gun dealers accused of violating rules and the Justice Department announced new “strike forces” to slow the flow of guns into New York and four other cities.
The Justice Department in November announced $139 million in COPS Hiring Program grants to help local forces hire 1,066 additional full-time police. However, local forces had to request the money and only five jurisdictions in New York got funds for a total of just six new officers in the state.
Adams won the mayoral election last year after campaigning as a moderate Democrat who opposed efforts to defund or abolish police forces, promising to get tough on crime.
Under former Mayor Bill de Blasio, the city government slashed $1 billion from the NYPD budget — prompting the Trump administration to declare New York City an “anarchist jurisdiction” eligible to lose its annual haul of about $7 billion in federal aid.
Adams visited Biden at the White House in July and told reporters he was “the Biden of Brooklyn.”
For much of his career, Biden led the charge in federalizing crime policy, including sponsoring the 1994 law that created the federal COPS office, but which also sent some pot dealers to prison for life without parole.
The Biden-authored law included $12.5 billion in grants for prison construction, with incentives for states that adopted “truth in sentencing” laws that required inmates to serve most of their sentence. New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice found it “helped fuel a prison construction boom.”
Biden’s historical anti-crime rhetoric drew groans from fellow Democrats as he sought the party’s presidential nomination. Left-wing critics noted he frequently sought to one-up Republican President George HW Bush’s policing plans during the crack epidemic.
“In a nutshell, [Bush’s] plan does not include enough police officers to catch the violent thugs, enough prosecutors to convict them, enough judges to sentence them, or enough prison cells to put them away for a long time,” Biden said in 1989.
Biden was notably more muted during the protests and riots in May and June 2020 following Floyd’s murder. The then-Democratic nominee said he didn’t support proposals to slash police, but that was open to “redirecting” some funds and that he believed there was an “urgent need for reform.”