Since reporting on Jersey City, N.J., Mayor Steven Fulop's adoption of a gun control questionnaire for firearms vendors in December, the campaign to leverage municipal firearms contracts to enact civilian firearms restrictions has continued. Now, the New York City Police Department is in the gun control activists' crosshairs. If successful, the campaign would subject manufacturers bidding to supply the nation's largest police force to eligibility criteria measuring the gun makers' participation in advancing several items of the anti-gun agenda, including "smart gun" technology, microstamping, and the restriction of private firearm transfers. Opposed even by former New York mayor and current anti-gun sugar daddy Michael Bloomberg, the standards would only serve to disadvantage law enforcement officers by subjecting their critical equipment to political, rather than functional, litmus tests.
The New York City effort is being led by Rabbi Joel Mosbacher and the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF). Rabbi Mosbacher has stated that his intent is to use municipal contracting to create an "emerging market" for "smarter, safer guns and better distribution practices by gun manufacturers." The increasing push to politicize the NYPD procurement process follows a December trip by Mosbacher and several allies to Europe, in which the gun control advocates attempted (with evident futility) to pressure several European firearms manufacturers into supporting new firearm restrictions in the United States. A veteran gun control advocate, Mosbacher participated in the anti-gun "Million Mom March" campaign in 2000.
Unfortunately for New York's Finest, Mosbacher has a more receptive audience in the recently-sworn-in New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio than with Bloomberg. According to the Jewish Daily Forward, during the New York mayoral campaign, gun control advocates secured assurances from de Blasio that he would use city firearm contracts to further an anti-gun agenda. This promise is reminiscent of then-"Public Advocate" de Blasio's own 2011 attempt to get the city to boycott a gun manufacturer.
The full questionnaire that Mosbacher and his colleagues intend to burden the NYPD with has yet to become available, but it would likely be similar to the one implemented by Jersey City, as Mosbacher and Metro IAF have claimed some credit for Fulop adopting it. Additionally, in an opinion piece for the New York Daily News, Mosbacher shares several topics he'd like the New York questionnaire to cover.
One potential question asks, "Does the manufacturer insist that dealers train their employees to spot 'straw buyers' --people buying guns for end users who are circumventing background checks?" Here the Rabbi appears ignorant of joint efforts by the gun industry and federal law enforcement already underway to halt straw purchases. In 2000, the National Shooting Sports Foundation and BATFE launched the "Don't Lie for the Other Guy" campaign, complete with print and broadcast public service announcements, and a "Retailer Tool Kit" aimed at helping gun dealers and their employees identify and deter illegal sales.
Other proposed questions ask about the manufacturers' participation in developing gun control technologies, such as, "Does the manufacturer cooperate fully with law enforcement--for example, by developing advanced ballistics technologies like bullet microstamping?" and "Is the manufacturer moving at breakneck speed to bring safer guns to market, like those with biometric recognition or other systems that prevent non-authorized users from pulling the trigger?" For these questions, firearm manufacturers could be penalized for not pursuing expensive, ineffective, and unreliable technologies that the civilian and law enforcement market do not want.
Tests have proven that microstamping technology can be defeated with simple tools or replacement parts (not to mention simply by high volume firing of the gun). Moreover, firearm manufacturer Smith & Wesson recently announced that it is exiting the California semi-automatic handgun market due in part to the state's onerous microstamping requirements. For the company to forego selling its semi-automatic handguns in the most populous state suggests that the costs of implementing such technology are far more prohibitive than the overly optimistic predictions of microstamping advocates and more in line with industry estimates, which have calculated an additional cost of $200 per firearm. Even notoriously anti-gun Washington, D.C., recently enacted "emergency" legislation to delay (yet again) implementation of its unworkable microstamping mandate.
As for "smart gun" technology, a 2013 poll undertaken by McKeon & Associates and commissioned by NSSF found that 74 percent of those polled thought that firearms incorporating biometric or radio frequency identification technology would not be reliable. Additionally, 74 percent of those polled noted that they would not be very likely to, or would not buy, a "smart gun." Further evidence of the problems posed by these unproven technologies is that in states where laws have been passed mandating their use, such as California and New Jersey, law enforcement groups, not willing to put their own lives in the hands of such components, have successfully lobbied to be exempt from such requirements.
While evaluating firearm manufacturers on irrelevant criteria is unwise for any local government concerned with the safety of police and public alike, complicating matters further is that NYPD officers are authorized to choose their duty sidearm from a list of three models provided by three different manufacturers. This arrangement wisely allows for the police force's 34,500 officers to choose the firearm with which they are most competent and comfortable. In New York's case, adding gun control politics to this process would not only open the possibility of limiting the entire NYPD's access to the best equipment, but could adversely affect safety by restricting an individual officer's choice in carrying the firearm with which they are most proficient.
As we noted in a previous alert, decades of attempts to use government firearm contracts to pursue civilian firearms restrictions have been met with scorn by the law enforcement community. While we doubt Mosbacher and de Blasio are interested in NRA's opinion on the matter, the pair should at least take this vocal law enforcement opposition as evidence as to the importance of equipping officers with the best tools for their job, independent of gun control politics, and abandon any attempts score cheap political points at the potential cost of officer and public safety.