Gov. Hochul Reduces Heavy National Guard Presence in NYC Subway Bag Checks

Source: Flickr/Copyright: Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

If you’re asked to picture a National Guard, most people think of military personnel with a deadly weapon. This picture is accurate since these individuals may need them to perform their duties. However, this may no longer be the case in New York.

Recently, Gov. Kathy Hochul stopped the National Guard from carrying military-grade weapons when checking riders’ bags. She deems these deadly assault rifles unnecessary for merely searching people in the subway. Read on for more details!

750 Troops Deployed To Check Bags

Gov. Kathy Hochul recently deployed the National Guard and several hundred police officers to help check New York’s subway system due to the unfortunate surge in transit crimes in recent months.

Source: Stephen Yang

These military personnel totaled seven hundred and fifty, combining efforts with 250 New York State police officers. The troop is tasked with inspecting people’s bags for different items, from laptops to groceries, confirming their ownership.,

The Officers Had Military-Grade Weapons

Despite the simple job of merely inspecting people’s bags and confirming the ownership of any suspicious items, these personnel carried military-grade weapons. The most recognized of these weapons were the M4 carbines.


The M4 is the military version of the civilian AR-15. This weapon can fire bullets automatically and rapidly, which may seem overkill for this situation. Additionally, the M4 is powerful enough to pierce through some body armor, making it too lethal for such a mild task.

Gov. Kathy Hochul Ban Assault Rifles

These high-powered weapons scared many subway users so much that they gained news coverage quickly. The news showed these officers inspecting people at Grand Central and Penn Station.

Source: AP/Hans Pennink

After the negative press, the governor quickly withdrew the troops and made a new declaration. She insisted that the officers could carry out their duties without their large, intimidating guns.

The Order Took Time To Implement

According to a spokesperson for Governor Hochul, the order was issued “immediately after the deployment.” Officers were to turn in their military-grade weapons and opt for a smaller, less lethal option.

Source: X/@wcbs880

However, the instruction took time to implement. Multiple news channels reported the National Guard and police officers carrying their assault rifles days after the decrement. Fortunately, they complied, and by Friday, none of the officers had a single long gun equipped.

So, What Weapons Do They Use Now?

While military-grade assault rifles may be overkill for merely inspecting people’s bags, the officers still need a weapon in case of defense and law enforcement. So, what weapons do these officers use now?

Source: Cityandstateny

Multiple reports show that while multiple officers stood near the train station entrances, all were strapped with sidearms. These minor pistols are ideal for self-defense and lethal force but aren’t as overkill as the military-grade M4.

‘All Weapons Do The Same Job. So Why Even Bother?’

Now, the National Guard and police officers use mild sidearms instead of high-powered assault rifles. Some welcome this as an improvement, but others question if it’s necessary since either weapon type is lethal.

Source: Twitter/BepristisD3353

Once news of the heavily armed officers went viral, civil libertarians raised concerns that the government was trying to militarize the subway. If the concerns go unaddressed, it could lead to a severe backlash that may take more resources to quell.

One Guard Carried His M4

The New York government banned all personnel inspecting people using the subway to drop their military-grade weapons and use sidearms. However, two guards were spotted a few hundred feet from the Long Island Rail Road concourse, and one had an M4.

Source: AP

Fortunately, the guard explained his reason. He said, “We’re with Empire Shield, but we’re supporting the bag checking.” They then acknowledged the rifle ban, saying, “That’s why we’re standing far from them.” In other words, they didn’t violate the ban since they are several feet from the subway.

People Weren’t Satisfied With The Explanation

Despite the officer clarifying that the assault rifle he carried didn’t violate the new order, many New Yorkers were still worried. Their worry isn’t with the type of weapon carried but the presence of any weapon.

Source: Shutterstock/John Angelillo

According to Albert Fox Cahn, founder of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, “No matter what weapons they’re carrying, a Guardsman is still a Guardsman.” He calls their presence an “incredibly irresponsible and a chilling symbol,” and it possibly begins the normalization of militarized tactics in the subway.

Donna Lieberman Agrees With Cahn

Cahn’s concerns with the government militarizing public transportation didn’t end with him. The head of the New York Liberties Union also shared his worries. According to Lieberman: “Treating our public transit system like a war zone is an unnecessary overreaction based on fear, not facts.”

Source: X/theilf

She explained that “deploying military personnel to the subways will not make New Yorkers feel safe. It will, unfortunately, create a perfect storm for tension, escalation, and further criminalization of Black and Brown New Yorkers.”

Armed Officers May Be Necessary

Police reports in November 2023 show that grand larceny and other property theft without force had increased by 17%. This means that sneaky robbers were stealing from New Yorkers who were asleep or too tired to be aware of their surroundings.

Source: Flickr/Cory.Lum

Deploying several law enforcement officers armed with weapons may be what criminals need to steer clear of the subway. While there’s not enough data yet to show whether this strategy is effective, experts argue that the intimidation factor should help reduce these numbers.

M4 Carbine Is A Standard Weapon

It’s worth pointing out that the M4 carbine is a standard weapon among military personnel and police officers. The NYPD’s emergency service unit uses it alongside other police officers.

Source: X/dewszt

While people are concerned with these weapons in New York’s subway, they’re not foreign to the location. In the past, troops armed with this weapon have been deployed at the Oculus at the World Trade Center, Grand Central Terminal, and other locations.

National Guards Can’t Make Arrests

Another point people made against deploying more guards into New York’s subway is that they don’t have any real power. Essentially, National Guards can’t make arrests or detain a suspect either.

Source: X/NYPDTransit

However, fact-checkers explained that this law doesn’t apply if the National Guard is helping the police. Therefore, they operate under the same rule as the New York police, allowing them to keep the city’s transit safe.

You Can’t Please Everyone

Commentators consider the complaints on New York’s transit “militarization” proof that you can’t please everyone. The government changed the type of weapon needed to inspect bags, but people are still unsatisfied.

Source: X/@GovKathyHochul

The “unrealistic” request to remove armed personnel from NYC subways prompted a response from the governor. She claimed that crime has dropped in transit, and critics should consider the psychological impact of someone being stabbed or thrown onto the subway tracks.

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Mary Scrantin

Written by Mary Scrantin

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