On July 6, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo declared the first-in-the-nation gun violence disaster emergency as part of a new, comprehensive strategy to build a safer New York. This new strategy treats gun violence as a public health crisis, using short-term solutions to manage the immediate gun violence crisis and reduce the shooting rate, as well as long-term solutions that focus on community-based intervention and prevention strategies to break the cycle of violence. The disaster emergency allows the State to expedite money and resources to communities so they can begin targeting gun violence immediately.
To coordinate this nation-leading gun violence prevention effort, the Governor 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 New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services to compile this data weekly. This data will be used by the new Office of Gun Violence Prevention to track emerging gun violence hotspots and deploy resources to those areas that need it most.
This comprehensive strategy also includes a $138.7 million investment in intervention and prevention programs, including programs that engage at-risk youth in summer job opportunities and community activity programs to get young people off the streets, and supports ongoing gun violence prevention programs. The Governor also announced the creation of a new State Police Gun Trafficking Interdiction Unit to stop the flood of illegal guns that come into New York from states with weak gun safety laws. Additionally, the State will continue to strengthen police-community relations through a partnership with John Jay College of Criminal Justice to help localities implement and assess the reform plans they developed through the landmark New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative.
“We’re building New York back better than ever before, but part of rebuilding is addressing the systemic injustices that were exposed by COVID. If you look at the recent numbers, more people are now dying from gun violence and crime than COVID – this is a national problem but someone has to step up and address this problem because our future depends on it,” Governor Cuomo said. “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. 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.”
The new Office of Gun Violence Prevention will be overseen by the New York State Department of Health and led by a Governor-appointed Gun Violence Prevention Coordinator who will coordinate an all-of-government approach to ensure that state and local programs are advancing unified gun violence prevention strategies. The office will include a task force of representatives from State agencies including the Offices of Mental Health, Children and Family Services, Temporary and Disability Assistance, the Prevention of Domestic Violence, Victim Services, the Departments of Labor, Housing, Health, Corrections and Community Supervision, as well as the Division of Criminal Justice Servics, Empire State Development, the State Police, Division of Budget, and others.
The Governor will also invite stakeholders to participate in a new Governor’s Council on Gun Violence Reduction to ensure coordination between the State, localities and community groups to address local needs. The Council will review current laws and local proposals for reform and will make recommendations for changes based on science and data.
As outlined in the Governor’s Executive Order, police departments from across the state will be polled weekly by Division of Criminal Justice Services for incident-level data on shootings so the new Office of Gun Violence Prevention can identify and track emerging hotspots and direct resources where needed.
As with COVID, the State will use a cluster-based strategy to contain and combat the epidemic and identify gun violence hot spots where clusters of shootings are driven by small numbers of people. Initial hot spots identified in New York City, Albany, Buffalo, Syracuse, and Long Island include just 4,090 young men aged 18-24 but account for 48.5 percent of recent gun violence in those communities.
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. To combat the flow of illegal guns onto New York streets, the State will create a new Gun Trafficking Interdiction Unit within the New York State Police. New York State will also work with other states in the region to share gun tracing data that can stop inter-state gun traffickers and straw purchasers from introducing illegal guns into New York communities.