Buy more guns, says Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association, or you’ll be thrust into the "hellish world" of south Brooklyn after Hurricane Sandy.
LaPierre, in an appeal to gun owners published Feb. 13, 2013, by conservative news site Daily Caller, wrote that "looters ran wild." And, he added, the mayor didn’t help:
"Anti-gun New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had already done everything he could to prevent law-abiding New Yorkers from owning guns, and he has made sure that no ordinary citizen will ever be allowed to carry a gun. He even refused to allow the National Guard into the city to restore civil order because Guardsmen carry guns!"
Did Bloomberg, co-chair of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, refuse "to allow the National Guard into the city to restore civil order because Guardsmen carry guns"?
We dug into the facts and found that, while Bloomberg did mention guns when he said there wasn’t need for additional help from the National Guard, his main reason was that the New York Police Department was doing fine at keeping the peace.
What Bloomberg refused
The NRA’s director of public affairs, Andrew Arulanandam, pointed us to the mayor’s Oct. 31, 2012, news conference, two days after Sandy’s storm surge devastated parts of New York City.
When Bloomberg opened up the floor to questions, a reporter jumped in: "Mr. Mayor, Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz has requested additional National Guard in Brooklyn. Do you agree?"
Markowitz had called on the governor to "allocate as many troops as possible" to help the city’s "brave — but overwhelmed — first responders."
"There have been unfortunate incidents of looting in some locations," said Markowitz’s statement, published the day of Bloomberg’s news conference. "All of our resources have been stretched to the limit, but in the name of public safety we need to send more National Guard personnel into Coney Island, Manhattan Beach, Gerritsen Beach, Red Hook and any other locations the governor deems appropriate."
Bloomberg, who could formally request such help from the governor, disagreed. New York City didn’t need the help, he said.
Here’s what he told the reporter who asked about Markowitz’s National Guard request:
"No, we appreciate the help. The National Guard has been helpful, but the NYPD is the only people we want on the street with guns, and we don't need it. There has been one or two minor outbreakings, disgraceful though they may be, of looting reported in the paper, but the vast bulk of people are doing the right thing. And in Brooklyn people are safe the same way as they are in the rest of the city. We have the resources. The NYPD is 100 percent confident that we can protect the public. We've been doing this for an awful long time. You just have to take a look at the crime rate to understand how good a job this is. And the National Guard has plenty of responsibilities. There are plenty of locations upstate and into surrounding states where they don't have a police department the size of New York, and they can use help from the state, and that's where they should be."
But even though the full context of his remarks indicates his reason was that the NYPD didn't need the help, the media pounced on his gun reference.
The NRA pointed us to a snippet from the Atlantic Wire, which covered the briefing live: "3:19 p.m. ‘The NYPD is the only people we want on the street with guns,’ Bloomberg says when asked if he asked for National Guard help in Brooklyn."
The NRA also noted that the next day, the Brooklyn Paper wrote that Bloomberg "snubbed Borough President Markowitz’s impassioned plea to bring the National Guard to Hurricane Sandy-scarred Brooklyn — arguing that approving the Beep’s request would be a waste of federal manpower and turn the borough into a police state."
Conservative media picked up the story from there:
• NewsBusters: "Thursday Report: Bloomberg Wouldn't Let Guard Into Brooklyn Over Their Possession of Guns."
• Fox Nation: "Report: Bloomberg Denied National Guard Assistance In Brooklyn Because Of Their Possession Of Guns."
• Hot Air: "Bloomberg kept National Guard out of NYC because they had guns?"
• Breitbart: "BLOOMBERG TO BROOKLYN: NATIONAL GUARD NOT ALLOWED WITH GUNS."
Did Bloomberg refuse to allow the National Guard into the city? Not exactly.
He requested National Guard support from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and got it.
The day before Bloomberg’s news conference, Cuomo "mobilized more than 2,300 Soldiers and Airmen" to help, including in New York City. Several days later, Cuomo’s office announced that more than 3,300 members of the National Guard had been deployed, including 850 from out of state.
The out-of-state reinforcements were housed at Floyd Bennett Field — in southeast Brooklyn.
John McCarthy of Bloomberg’s office told PolitiFact that the National Guard was in the city "before, during and after the storm."
Order and disorder
But LaPierre’s partly right: Bloomberg didn’t ask for National Guard troops "to restore civil order."
Law enforcement wasn’t part of their requested mission, said Eric Durr, director of public affairs for the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs.
Local government ran the show, requesting help from the state, he said. And Bloomberg didn’t ask for armed troops.
"Our soldiers were there to assist in storm recovery," Durr said. "They were not carrying weapons."
And that’s "incredibly typical," said Durr, who joined the New York National Guard in 1988.
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, for example, he didn’t carry a weapon.
Bloomberg’s office confirmed the mayor "did not want security provided by anyone other than NYPD."
"Because they are the best police force in the world," McCarthy said.
The city’s police force, with about 34,500 in uniform, is more than twice the size of the New York National Guard.
But LaPierre also suggested there was a loss of civil order that required restoration.
Just how much disorder was there?
According to Bloomberg’s office, Brooklyn borough president Markowitz, the New York Police Department and a congressman representing Brooklyn — not so much.
In the week after the storm, crime overall was down. Burglary was up.
The day Markowitz had appealed for more aid, the New York Times and New York Post had reported isolated looting in the evacuated Rockaways and Coney Island, with about two dozen arrests. The Post quoted unnamed sources describing people grabbing shirts from an Ann Taylor display, plus gadgets from a Brookstone store "before cops arrived to stand guard."
In response to LaPierre’s Daily Caller article, the Los Angeles Times reported that while crime overall dropped in the city after Sandy, there had been some spikes in burglary — 17 burglaries in a precinct that last year had eight and 14 burglaries in a precinct that last year had three.
But citywide, the Times reported, "there was a drop of 17% in shootings, 47% in rapes, 22% in robberies, 18% in assaults, 45% in grand larceny, and 22% in stolen cars. The city also went a record eight days without a murder directly after Sandy."
Rep. Hakeem S. Jeffries, a Democrat who represents New York’s Eighth District, wrote a letter to LaPierre, saying his "suggestion that the residents of southern Brooklyn were in grave danger due to 'looters' that 'ran wild' is baseless."
"I spent countless hours in the communities of Coney Island and Sea Gate. Nothing about your characterization of lawlessness rings true," Jeffries wrote.
And Markowitz, the borough president who had requested the National Guard help, wrote to LaPierre, "Your assertion that ‘looters ran wild in South Brooklyn,’ proves just how totally ignorant you are of what’s really going on in Brooklyn and what’s really in the best interest of Brooklynites. Your perception of Hurricane Sandy is nothing but fiction."
(Seemed a little harsh to us from the guy who had pointed out "unfortunate incidents of looting in some locations." But that’s certainly more reserved than "looters ran wild.")
LaPierre described a "hellish world" in south Brooklyn after Hurricane Sandy where the mayor "refused to allow the National Guard into the city to restore civil order because Guardsmen carry guns."
He is wrong that Bloomberg refused to allow the National Guard into the city -- troops were already there and more arrived in the days afterward. However, he's right that Bloomberg rejected an armed National Guard, although the full context of the mayor's remarks indicate his primary reason was he felt the NYPD was able to keep the peace without the Guard's help.
We rate the statement Mostly False.