Manhattan, NY – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has issued an executive order declaring a disaster emergency in New York due to surging gun violence.
Cuomo said shootings are a civil rights injustice overwhelmingly impacting Latino, black, and low-income communities, and that the state cannot recover from the negative effects of the COVID pandemic without quashing gun violence, The New York Times reported.
He made his announcement on Tuesday afternoon during an appearance at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, WNBC reported.
“If you look at the recent numbers, more people are now dying from gun violence and crime than COVID,” he said. “This is a national problem but someone has to step up and address this problem because our future depends on it.”
The first-in-the-nation executive order will open the door for the state to use crisis funding to kickstart a specialized law enforcement unit and to funnel money into community programs in order to target gun violence, Cuomo said.
Under the supervision of the governor’s newly-established Office of Gun Violence Prevention (OGVP), law enforcement agencies will be required to provide the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services with weekly data pertaining to gun violence occurring within the agency’s jurisdiction, WNBC reported.
The OGVP will use the data to figure out where gun violence is most prevalent so resources can be focused in those areas, Cuomo said.
The state will also use nearly $140 million to fund prevention and intervention programs, to include providing youth with community activities and creating summer job opportunities for at-risk kids, WNBC reported.
The state expects to fund 21,000 jobs for at-risk youth this summer and will kick in additional money to help provide jobs, training and stipends for 2,400 people who are no longer in school and who live in gun violence hotspot areas, according to a press release from Cuomo’s office.
Despite the massive law enforcement defunding that has occurred in New York over the course of the past year, Cuomo announced he is establishing a New York State Police Gun Trafficking Interdiction Unit (GTIU).
He said the unit will help shield New Yorkers from a flood of illegal weapons he claimed are being funneled into the state from areas that have fewer gun control laws, WNBC reported.
“While New York State has the strongest gun safety laws in the country, 74% of crime guns used in criminal activity across the state were purchased out of state,” Cuomo’s office said in a press release.
The governor further said his disaster emergency response plan aims to rebuild relationships between local law enforcement agencies and community members.
Through a partnership with John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the state will work with police agencies to implement police reform plans they were mandated to create under the New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative, Cuomo’s office said.
Implementing stronger background investigations standards for law enforcement officers is also a focal point of the governor’s disaster emergency plan, as is closing the “police officer misconduct loophole” by blocking officers deemed to have committed “serious or criminal misconduct” from being hired by other departments, according to the governor’s press release.
Cuomo also signed off on legislation Tuesday allowing victims of gun violence to sue firearms manufacturers under New York’s public nuisance laws, The New York Times reported.
“We’re building New York back better than ever before, but part of rebuilding is addressing the systemic injustices that were exposed by COVID,” Cuomo said in the press release.
“Just like we did with COVID, New York is going to lead the nation once again with a comprehensive approach to combating and preventing gun violence, and our first step is acknowledging the problem with a first-in-the-nation disaster emergency on gun violence,” he continued. “When we see an injustice, we don’t look the other way, we stand up and fight it because that’s the New York way.”
Shootings in New York City nearly doubled in 2020 versus 2019, The New York Times reported.
So far this year, gun violence in the city is at the highest level seen since the early 2000s.