National Guard won’t carry long guns during bag checks in NYC subways, Hochul says

The National Guard will no longer carry long guns while checking the bags of commuters filtering through the city’s subway system, officials said.

The directive reportedly came days after last week’s announcement that soldiers would begin patrolling subway stations and helping the NYPD perform random bag-checks. National Guard soldiers who are not deployed at bag-check stations will continue to carry long guns as part of the Joint Task Force Empire Shield, the governor’s office confirmed with Gothamist on Sunday.

The NYPD reported an uptick in the number of murders in subway stations since the beginning of 2020 compared to the 15 years prior. Coupled with several recent high-profile crimes on subways – including an incident last week in which a passenger slashed another with a box cutter – Gov. Kathy Hochul enlisted the National Guard last week, announcing 750 soldiers would be entering the system.

The National Guard’s sudden appearance in subway stations was novel, echoing the aftermath of 9/11 in New York City. And before that, a huge military presence hadn’t been seen in subways since a blackout in 1965.

Shortly after the National Guard began appearing in subway stations last week, commuters told Gothamist that the soldiers’ presence terrified them. Civil rights advocacy groups lambasted the news, including the Legal Defense Fund – which publicly urged Hochul “reconsider this harmful plan” on social media.

“A sweeping surveillance state and biased broken windows policing won’t deliver the security New Yorkers are asking for,” the New York Civil Liberties Union said in a statement on Wednesday.

The governor has not said how long the military will be present in the underground system.

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