ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday outlined a $138.7 million plan to combat the gun violence epidemic in New York state.
Cuomo issued an executive order declaring the first-in-the-nation gun violence disaster emergency as part of the states new comprehensive plan to build a safer state. Tuesday at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City the governor discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the growing gun violence epidemic, and he outlined a seven-step plan about how the state is going to combat gun violence, and issued an executive order declaring the first-in-the-nation gun violence disaster emergency as part of the states new comprehensive plan to build a safer state.
“We went from one epidemic to another epidemic,” Cuomo said. “We went from COVID to the epidemic of gun violence, and the fear and the death that goes along with that. It’s been all over the newspapers, it is undeniable. It’s so bad that when you look at the recent numbers, more people are dying of gun violence than are dying of COVID.”
The governor highlighted the recent July 4th holiday weekend, saying 51 people were shot and 13 killed.
New York has the strictest gun violence laws in the nation but there is more that needs to be done to change the gun violence epidemic, he said.
The governor outlined the $138.7 million plan in seven steps: 1) Treat gun violence like the emergency public health issue it is; 2) Target hot spots with data and science; 3) Positive engagement for at-risk youth; 4) Break the cycle of escalating violence; 5) Get illegal guns off the street; 6) Keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people; 7) Rebuild the police-community relationship.
“What does this do this executive order? First, it says to everyone in the state, I want you to understand the extent of the problem, I want you to understand how serious this is,” Cuomo said. “It then also allows us to move even faster and free up money and free up programs so we can get it on the street and get it on the street now.”
The $138.7 million will help to go toward intervention and prevention programs such engaging at-risk youth in summer job opportunities and community activity programs to get young people off the streets and support ongoing gun violence prevention programs. Cuomo said this will include $76 million to create job opportunities and community activities for youth.
The state is also partnering with the Consortium for Worker Education, the workforce development arm of the New York City Central Labor Council to provide new job training, training stipends, credentialing and placement in good-paying, long-term jobs for 2,400 young people who are out of school and live in neighborhoods most impacted by gun violence.
Cuomo said research has shown that summer jobs programs decrease the likelihood of involvement in violence by 45%.
The state is also going to be closing a loophole on harmful gun sales. Cuomo announced his signing of legislation which would hold gun manufacturers liable for their products. He also announced the signing of legislation that will prohibit people with outstanding warrants for their arrest to purchase guns.
Part of the state’s plan to combat gun violence includes the creation of a new State Police Gun Trafficking Interdiction Unit to stop the flow of illegal guns that come into New York from other states.
To coordinate the state’s gun violence prevention effort, Cuomo announced the creation of the Office of Gun Violence Prevention. The governor also required by Executive Order major police departments to share incident-level data on gun violence with the Department of Criminal Justice to compile this data weekly. This data will be used by the new Office of Gun Violence Prevention to track emerging gun violence hot spots and deploy resources to those areas that need it most.
“This is not just a criminal justice issue, this is a public health issue,” Cuomo said. “It’s a jobs issue, it’s a substance abuse issue and we have to coordinate them all together and that’s what we’re going to do in New York State. We’re going to create the first Office to Prevent Gun Violence, in the Department of Health, come up with a comprehensive organized science and data driven approach.”
During COVID, people left New York. People will only come back to New York and to the city if and when they feel safe, not just from COVID, but from gun violence, Cuomo said.
“When the COVID epidemic hit, no one said can we afford to do this, nobody,” Cuomo said. “I spent billions of dollars buying masks buying ventilators, buying this buying that. Nobody said, Oh, can we afford to spend money on COVID, why? Because it was a matter of life and death. And when people think they may die they say spend whatever you have to spend to keep me alive. Well you know what we’re in a new epidemic and its gun violence and you know what its a matter of life and death also. We can’t afford not to commit ourselves.”
Some lawmakers noted issues with the governor declaring an emergency shortly after the ending of the COVID-19 state of emergency.
“Days after finally relinquishing his emergency powers, the Governor has declared another emergency,” Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda,said in a statement shortly after Cuomo’s conference. “The crisis in cities across our state today directly correlates with the passage of the disastrous bail and other criminal justice ‘reforms,’ an out-of-control Parole Board that has released countless murderers and other dangerous criminals, and calls by Democrats to defund our police.”
Others noted crime rates in New York in regards to recent legislation.
“His announcement today ignores the reality that crime rates have spiked across the state in almost direct correlation with liberals’ consistent passage of pro-criminal policies that return violent offenders to the community and undermine the efforts of police to do their jobs,” Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay R, C, I-Ref-Pulaski said in a statement.