National News

Brooklyn Official Calls for Off-Duty Police to Bring Guns to Houses of Worship

Posted October 28, 2018 3:36 p.m. EDT

NEW YORK — As the nation reeled from Saturday’s synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh, the borough president of Brooklyn — home to more Jews than any county in the country — said Sunday that off-duty police officers should bring their weapons into religious services.

“From now on,” said the borough president, Eric L. Adams, a retired New York police captain, “I will bring my handgun every time I enter a church or synagogue.”

Adams, a Democrat and 22-year veteran of the Police Department, made his remarks at a news conference outside a Jewish family services center in the Midwood neighborhood, home to one of New York City’s highest concentrations of Orthodox Jews.

He said that armed off-duty officers would be an “extension” to the on-duty officers that already protect many houses of worship. He added after the news conference that only off-duty officers who have trained in crisis management and marksmanship should bring guns.

“A police officer in a place of worship is different than a permit holder,” he said. “Training being the difference.”

The accused shooter at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Robert Bowers, was confronted by on-duty officers dressed in tactical gear and armed with rifles as he tried to leave the synagogue after killing 11 people inside. He exchanged gunfire with the officers and injured four of them.

Adams, who spoke outside the Ohel Bais Ezra Children’s Home and Family Services Center, understood that he might be courting criticism from gun-control advocates.

“We have to live in the real universe that we’re in,” he said. “It’s not popular, but it’s right.”

On Saturday after the shootings, New York Police Department’s counterterrorism chief, James Waters, said on Twitter that counterterrorism teams had been sent to many houses of worship “out of an abundance of caution.”

New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, had said Saturday: “We should never suggest that a house of worship has to have an armed guard for people to be able to go about their religious observance. That’s not America.”

Avi Shafran, a spokesman for Agudath Israel, an umbrella organization for ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups, said that while Agudath has no official policy on guns in houses of worship, “The idea of an officer of the law, who chooses to bring a weapon into the type of place that armed haters have often chosen to target, doesn’t strike me personally as outlandish.”