NY Announces ‘First-in-the-Nation’ Gun Violence State of Emergency | #College. | #Students

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has declared a “first-in-the-nation” disaster state of emergency regarding the rise in gun violence — which Cuomo says has now taken more lives than the COVID-19 pandemic, and is a growing threat to the broader economic recovery and at-risk youth, report the Wall Street Journal and Fox News. 

Speaking to an audience at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, the governor also signed legislation, one which closed “a loophole that allowed people with outstanding warrants for their arrest to purchase guns,” according to a Tuesday press release

Through this state of emergency declaration, New York state can now quickly release millions of dollars in funding to support initiatives and programs to curb gun violence, some of which include summer recreation, violence interruption, and violence prevention programs. 

“We went from one epidemic to another epidemic. We went from COVID to the epidemic of gun violence. And the fear and the death that goes along with it,” Cuomo said. “When you look at the recent numbers, more people are dying of gun violence than of COVID … we’re losing young people.”

Cuomo explained that his efforts in declaring the abhorrent rate of rising gun violence an epidemic with consequences will hopefully wake up New Yorkers and beyond — shedding light on the fact that shootings are up 38 percent in New York City, according to CNN.  

“I want you to understand the extent of the problem,” Cuomo shared in his speech. “I want you to understand how serious this is.”

Cuomo’s Approach 

While at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Cuomo announced that the state of emergency over gun violence declaration will quickly release $138.7 million of funding allocated for a “series of initiatives,” mainly summer recreation and violence interruption programs, some of which already operate in some areas of New York’s cities. 

Of that money, roughly $60 million of it will fund summer-employment programs designed to help 21,000 people, keeping them employed, empowering them with responsibility, and instilling a sense of local community. 

Cuomo also announced that he’d double the current funding for violence-interruption programs like SNUG, a nonprofit street outreach program that employs outreach workers that live in high-risk communities. These “credible messengers” then respond to shootings to prevent retaliation, help detect conflicts within neighborhoods, and work to resolve issues peacefully before they lead to additional violence. 

SNUG is an evidence-based program, the governor has detailed, noting that the number of shooting incidents decreased by 11 percent within the communities where SNUG programs were employed, according to the governor’s website.

See Also: ‘Invest in Communities’: A Gun Violence Researcher Finds Reason for Hope

Beyond allocating money to local communities and programs, Cuomo also targeted firearm sales and gun manufacturers — aiming to stop the growing violence from the source. This is a big step towards change, considering the governor’s office has found that 74 percent of guns used during crimes were purchased out of state.

“We’re going to continue to work with our partners to make sure that the message is simple: anyone that is carrying an illegal firearm in New York City has to have consequences and should be taken off the street,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said, as quoted by CNN. 

The first signed legislation will proverbially open the door for anyone looking to take legal action against a gun manufacturer, using the argument that the product — in this case, a firearm — creates a “public nuisance,” according to the legislation’s wording. This also includes if someone was harmed by a firearm.

Moreover, the legislation states that products made by gun manufacturers can be considered public nuisances “even if the gun manufacturer did not purposely cause harm to the public,” the press release states.

“This legislation will allow for a lawsuit to be brought in cases where reasonable controls and procedures are not in place, ensuring that responsible manufacturers and dealers will not be held accountable for the actions of criminal actors,” the release adds, as quoted by Fox News

This move is supported by gun-control advocates, designed to circumvent a 2005 federal restriction of such legal suits. A spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a firearms-trade association, spoke to the Wall Street Journal, saying they plan to challenge the law in court. 

The second legislation prohibits any person with an outstanding warrant for a felony or a serious offense from purchasing a firearm, a seemingly ignored purchasing loophole until now.  

Lastly, law enforcement reform legislation was also signed on Tuesday, as Cuomo put ink to paper prohibiting officers that have committed serious or criminal misconduct during their tenure at one police department from being able to serve in another law enforcement department, CNN details. 

A Rising Problem in New York and Beyond

Photo by Don Pollard / Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo via Flickr.

According to data gathered by the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services from other large police departments around the state, 511 people were injured or killed by shootings in the first five months of 2021, compared with 313 for the same period in 2020.

The increases were highest in the upstate cities of Buffalo, Rochester, and Albany.

Eight people have been killed by gun violence in Albany through May, according to the state, compared with one person over the same period in 2020, the Wall Street Journal detailed

Moreover, Cuomo noted there were at least 51 shooting victims across the state over the Fourth of July weekend, 26 of those individuals were shot in New York City, CNN details. 

This increase in violence has led the NYPD to work countless hours, as city officials noted that in the month of June, gun arrests were up nearly 100 percent compared to last year. 

Additional Reading: What COVID-19 Can Teach Us About Curbing Gun Violence

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