When Alvin Bragg ran for Manhattan district attorney, he spoke about gun possession cases that did not merit harsh prosecution or imprisonment, saying that not every person charged with such a crime was linked to violence. On Wednesday, facing a backlash over the lenient policies he put in place on taking office this month and after a string of high-profile shootings, Bragg named a new prosecutor dedicated to preventing gun violence and acknowledged that his approach, had changed, reports the New York Times. Bragg said he had been overly focused during the campaign on “exceptional” cases in which gun possession should not be prosecuted.
Bragg’s shift comes as New York City grapples with gun violence that rose sharply in the summer of 2020 and has remained elevated. There were more than 1,500 shooting incidents in both 2020 and 2021, about twice as many as in each of the previous two years. In response, Mayor Eric Adams this week unveiled a plan to address gun violence, which outlined actions that the city would take and called on other criminal justice entities — including the state courts, the legislature and district attorneys Mr. Bragg — to enact new policies to help the crackdown. Bragg’s policies are broadly comparable to those of other "progressive prosecutors." During his first days in office, Bragg told his prosecutors to seek jail or prison time for only the most serious crimes. Gun possession was not mentioned explicitly as one of those serious crimes, meaning that prosecutors were only to request jail or prison time for possession as a stand-alone charge in “extraordinary circumstances.” The memo mirrored proposals that helped. Bragg win the Democratic primary and the election and was welcomed by some public defender organizations. Its release was met with weeks of pushback, and New York’s police commissioner, Keechant Sewell, said she found it deeply troubling.