New York City has the lowest percentage of teens with guns compared with any other major city in the United States, according to federal statistics released Thursday.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg cited the NYPD's crime-stopping efforts -- including its controversial "stop and frisk" tactics -- as a reason 2.3 percent of teenagers carry guns, below the national average, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The mayor, who was joined by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly at the 81st Precinct in Bedford-Stuyvesant, said communities are working with the police to teach kids the dangers of gun violence and gangs.
"We are the safest big city in the country and we have done it not by locking people up after they commit crimes . . . we have done it by deterring people from doing the crimes in the first place," Bloomberg said.
The national average of armed teens for 2011 is 5.1 percent, according to the CDC, which surveyed teenagers using its Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance unit. New York City saw a decline of 36 percent of teens with guns since 2001 while the national average dropped 11 percent.
Bloomberg, who earlier in the day met with the parents of a slain Chicago teenager who was shot a week after performing at the presidential inauguration, said tougher gun laws have made it harder for gangs to get weapons. "In other cities, a conviction for illegal gun possession carries a slap on the wrist. In our city it carries a minimum 3 1/2-year prison sentence," the mayor said.
Kelly said stop and frisks net many of the illegal guns and he disagreed with opponents' efforts to end the program.
The New York Civil Liberties Union and other opponents say that stop and frisk, which is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit against the NYPD, results in few arrests and targets minorities.
The commissioner and Bloomberg said they are only performing the stops in inner city neighborhoods that have the highest crime rates and don't racially profile.
"Nobody likes to get stopped, but we have to do something," Bloomberg said.
The City Council is weighing four bills that address the complaints about stop and frisk.City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is running for mayor, supports one of the bills that would create an NYPD inspector general and said she would override the mayor's expected veto.