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After mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, we examine the threat of domestic terrorism and the nation's gun policy debate. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, one of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the El Paso and Dayton tragedies, the “horrible reality” of the white supremacist movement and why he thinks strict gun laws have decreased homicides in New York.
Now we hear from another Democratic presidential candidate.
Bill de Blasio is mayor of New York City. He runs the largest police force in America.
Mayor de Blasio, thank you for being here.
Bill De Blasio:
Thank you very much, Judy.
You do run a large city that has its own share and history of gun violence.
How do you look on what has happened over this past weekend?
I think it's a tragedy that doesn't have to be in America.
I think this happened for a reason. It's the proliferation of weapons and the ease with which people can get them. And now it is this additional horrible reality of white supremacy growing in this country, this movement of white supremacy growing, aided and abetted by messages from the White House.
We have to understand, this wasn't the case 20 years ago. We have seen these mass shootings become more and more common, and on top of it now more often coming with a political agenda. We saw that with the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. We saw that in Poway, California, now El Paso.
We have to understand something's changed. And I think we have to confront it two ways. One, Congress needs to come back and pass some commonsense gun laws, background checks, the basics, a waiting period before you get a gun, get rid of assault weapons.
But, second, we need leadership that's actually going to unify us and not tear us apart.
You say background checks need to be tightened.
Your city has some of — and state of New York…
… has some of the strictest gun laws in America. And yet you still have your share of violence. Critics say you go to the places with strict gun laws, they still have violence.
Don't they have a point?
I'm going to contest that, Judy, with this point.
We are now, New York City, safest big city in America. We had under 300 homicides for a city of 8.6 million people and the most diverse place on Earth, people in one of the smallest — crammed together in one of the smallest geographies you could imagine for 8.6 million people.
And yet we have created some more mutual respect. We have created a stronger social fabric. And our police are working more closely with communities. The result? Gun violence continues to go down. Crime continues to go down.
So I actually would argue we have got some proof that those strong gun safety laws correlate to reduced violence.
You had in New York City, in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Brownsville the weekend before this a shooting, and one person dead, 11 wounded.
You waited several days before you called that a mass shooting.
Judy, I have since said I understand why people of the community wanted to make sure that somehow there was not a different value given to one of these tragedies in one kind of community vs. another kind of community.
What do you mean by that?
Meaning I think the fear in the Brownsville community — first of all, I went out there the next morning.
And folks were first and foremost concerned that the whole community not be painted negatively because of the acts of a very few. We don't know all the facts yet, but they appear to be members of a local gang. I didn't want to in any way add to the negative impression that people were worried about.
On the other hand, some voices came forward and said, we don't want to be undervalued. We don't want that — a shooting that affects black lives to be seen as less important than some of the other shootings, for example, on some of the college campuses.
And I heard that point, and I recognized it. And I said, that's fair. I will refer to it as a mass shooting. Even if the — even if the motive may have been different, even though the specifics may have been different, I understood why people thought that was important.
Another issue in all of this, of course, New York City has been the site of the worst international terrorist event ever, 9/11.
Do you think there's been too much emphasis placed on international terrorism, and not enough on domestic?
I think it's time to reassess, because, for years, there was a valid concern about international terrorism, obviously after 9/11.
But even when I first came into office, we were still seeing a lot more activity by terrorists directed at major locations in the west. Thank God that has been reduced in recent years for a variety of reasons.
But what is coming up is this domestic terrorism. It's unmistakable. This is the threat we need to focus on more and more.
Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City, thank you.
Thank you, Judy.
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