Brooklyn Official Says He Will Carry a Gun Whenever He Enters a House of Worship

By Andy NewmanNate Schweber and Luis Ferré-Sadurní

As the nation reeled from Saturday’s synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, the borough president of Brooklyn — whose county is home to more Jews than any other in the country — said on Sunday that he would begin carrying a gun whenever he attends religious services.

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

Mr. 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.

The Police Department already instructs active officers to carry their service weapons while off duty, with few exceptions. Retired officers are allowed to carry concealed weapons under federal law if they pass a marksmanship test.

Mr. Adams, who spoke outside Ohel Bais Ezra Children’s Home and Family Services Center, urged off-duty officers to bring guns when they attend religious services, and said they would be an “extension” to the on-duty officers that already protect many houses of worship.

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

On Saturday after the shooting, the 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.”

The shootings prompted an outpouring of grief. On Sunday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Democrat of New York, ordered flags in the state lowered to half-staff. An evening interfaith vigil at Congregation Ansche Chesed on the Upper West Side attracted a line that snaked for several blocks.

The killings also rekindled the national debate about how to assure safety at places of peace like synagogues, mosques and churches. In the wake of church massacres in Charleston, S.C., and in Sutherland Springs, Tex., some churches in states that allow people to carry concealed weapons encouraged members to bring their guns. President Trump said on Saturday that “if there was an armed guard inside the temple, they would have been able to stop” the shooter.

But Pittsburgh’s Democratic mayor, Bill Peduto, said on “Meet the Press”on Sunday that more guns were not the solution. “I don’t think that the answer to this problem is solved by having our synagogues, mosques and churches filled with armed guards.”

On Sunday afternoon, the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, told an interfaith gathering at another synagogue: “Houses of worship do not have to have armed guards to be able to practice their religions.

“That’s not America,” added Mr. de Blasio, also a Democrat, at Temple Emanu-El on the Upper East Side, one of the city’s most prominent Reform synagogues.

A city councilman from the Upper West Side who is Jewish, Mark Levine, said, “I think that there is no freedom of religion in a society that requires you to carry a gun while you pray.” He added, “I don’t want to have to sit next to someone carrying a gun in the pews.”

And Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said in a statement, “Our synagogues cannot become bunkers.”

But some Jewish leaders in New York said that they would feel more secure knowing that an attacker entering a synagogue would face someone with the power to stop them.

Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Democrat of Brooklyn and a fierce advocate for Jewish interests, said that New York was home to plenty of Israelis with military training who could be deployed to secure synagogues.

Mr. Hikind said that he himself sometimes feels unsafe at his own synagogue.

“I sometimes look behind me to see if I see anyone strange,” he said. “Just instinctively I do that. Just the idea of having security at Jewish institutions that are especially targets is something important. It’s a must.”

Mr. Hikind tweeted today that he intended to register for a gun license.

Mr. Adams said he knew he was wading into politically charged waters. “We have to live in the real universe that we’re in,” he said. “It’s not popular, but it’s right.”

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