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Cuomo declares disaster emergency on gun violence in New York

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NEW YORK, N.Y. – Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order Tuesday declaring a disaster emergency on gun violence in the state of New York.

Cuomo compared gun crime in the state to the coronavirus pandemic, saying it is a public health crisis that spreads through communities like a virus, through gang activity and retaliations. The state plans to combat this with a comprehensive, organized “science and data-driven approach.”

"Step one, treat it like a public health issue. We know how to deal with an epidemic," said Cuomo. "What we want to say is 'We want to do with gun violence, what we just did with COVID.' That's what we want. We want the same level of attention, the same level of energy."

A new Office of Gun Violence Prevention will be established through the state health department, with an appointed coordinator to manage upcoming initiatives.

Cuomo said the state’s efforts will be focused on the following key strategies:

  • Treat gun violence like the emergency public health issue it is
  • Target hotspots with data and science
  • Positive engagement for at-risk youth
  • Break the cycle of escalating violence
  • Get illegal guns off the streets
  • Keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people
  • Rebuild the police-community relationship

To ensure coordination statewide, Cuomo will convene a Council on Gun Violence Reduction to enhance communications between localities, community groups and state departments.

The state also plans to use a cluster-based strategy to combat gun violence, by identifying hot spots and prioritizing efforts in those areas. Cuomo says just about 4,000 young men ages 18 – 24 account for more than 48% of the recent gun violence in New York City, Albany, Buffalo, Syracuse and Long Island.

The state plans to invest more than $76 million in a job program that will provide employment for at-risk youth. Cuomo says the state plans to fund more than 21,000 jobs for youth this summer in New York City. Businesses in other areas, like Utica, are encouraged to post available jobs on the state’s website as part of the Summer Youth Employment Program.

The state will also focus efforts on intervention programs to stop retaliations and escalations.

“There’s an approach, that says when a young person arrives in the hospital, you intervene at that moment with that young person. And you say ‘you were shot – your attitude is you’re going to get up and get out and go back to the street and shoot the guy who shot you. I know what you’re going to do, you’re going to get your friends, and you’re going to start a war. And there’s going to be more people coming back,’” said Cuomo. “You intervene at that point, and you say ‘there’s a different way.’ That’s where you catch them, that’s where you grab them, that’s where you put them on a different path.”

To combat illegal guns coming into the state, New York State is also creating a Gun Trafficking Interdiction Unit within New York State Police. New York will also share data with surrounding states to help stop gun trafficking.

Cuomo said the state will provide more than $138 million in funding to support the new initiatives and programs.