Mike Bloomberg: Having An Illegal Gun In New York Isn't Quite As Bad If You're From Out Of State. Sorry, Plaxico
Last week, we told you about a former United States marine who was sentenced to 10 hours of community service for possessing a gun that wasn't registered in New York state.
We noted that Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who's led the charge in calling for stricter gun laws across the country (despite his jurisdiction extending no further than the five boroughs, the mayor's taken it upon himself to investigate gun shows...in Arizona), hadn't made a peep about the seemingly light sentence for the marine -- which seemed a little strange considering how vocal he was about wanting to throw the book at former New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress when he was busted with an illegal gun.
We asked the mayor's office for comment on the slap on the wrist former marine Ryan Jerome received last week. We were ignored. Now, however, Bloomberg's offered us a response -- and it doesn't quite jibe with comments the mayor made when Burress first got popped (after famously shooting himself in the leg) in 2008.
When Burress first was arrested, Bloomberg (as mayor, mind you) decided that the eighth overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and that anything short of the 3 1/2-year mandatory minimum prison sentence would be a "mockery of the law."
Burress -- during the prime of his career -- ended up doing two years in prison. As we mentioned, Jerome, who's from Indiana, will have to perform 10 hours of community service.
So, is the mayor outraged? Not quite -- apparently Jerome gets a pass because he's from out of town.
"I think [sentencing] depends on the circumstances. I don't know...some of these out-of-towners come here and, in all fairness, they might not know about our gun laws," Bloomberg tells the Voice, "although you would think they read the papers...but that's why you don't have an automatic everything. You have a judge who makes intelligent decisions and makes decisions based on their experiences."
Fair enough -- and we'll ignore the fact that Burress lives in New Jersey -- but that's coming from the guy who decided, without the help of a judge (or intelligent decisions), that the book needed to be thrown at Burress.
As we pointed out last week, the two cases aren't identical -- but they're similar enough that there shouldn't be (in our humble opinion) this vast a difference in how the two men were punished.
For starters, Jerome didn't accidentally shoot himself at a crowded night club. He was arrested in September when he tried to check his .45-calibur pistol with security at the Empire State Building while sightseeing.
In New York, loaded guns are rarely permitted outside of a home or business -- even if they're registered with the state -- which is not the case in other parts of the country, where gun laws are a bit more lax (in other words, "red states" like Indiana).
Jerome's weapon is registered in Indiana, where he has a concealed weapons permit. That permit, as he learned the hard way, doesn't extend to New York.
Jerome, according to various media reports, including one from the Washington Post, told police he checked New York's gun laws before bringing his weapon on his trip to the Big Apple -- he claims he must have mis-read them.
He also told police that, as someone who makes a living dealing in precious metals, he carries the gun on him for protection from people who may want to rob him.
Burress' gun wasn't registered in New York, either. It was, at one point, registered in Florida, though. However, when he shot himself in the leg, the Florida permit was expired.
Expired or not, as we pointed out last week, it's not like Burress bought the gun out of the back of some guy's car and was using it to hold up liquor stores -- he bought it legally in a different state, and failed to re-register the gun when his permit expired.
Like Jerome, Burress also says he carried the gun for protection -- as a multi-millionaire celebrity in a sport with a history of its athletes being the targets of robberies, you can't blame the guy for thinking he needed to carry a piece.
Regardless of the circumstances, the two men broke the same law. Jerome, however, got a slap on the wrist, while Burress lost two years of his life.
We wouldn't argue that Jerome belongs in prison. We will argue, however, that Burress didn't belong in prison -- and it's unfair that Bloomberg apparently gets to pick and choose who deserves to have the book thrown at them, and who doesn't.
Moral of the story: if you have an illegal gun in New York City, you'd be well served to also have an Indiana mailing address.
*Sam Levin contributed to this post.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.