Cuomo declares gun violence a 'disaster emergency'

Calling gun violence in New York a public health crisis, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday that he is declaring a disaster emergency in order to "free up money and free up programs" to tackle the problem. In a speech at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, the governor called such a disaster declaration via executive order the "first in the nation." 

"We know how to deal with an epidemic — we want the same level of attention, the same level of energy. Look what we did with COVID," Cuomo said. "This is not just a criminal justice issue — it's a public health issue, it's a jobs issue, it's a substance abuse issue. And we have to coordinate them all together."

The governor said he will be putting together an office to coordinate the state's efforts. This Office of Gun Violence Prevention will use data from police departments to identify hotspots for shootings and "deploy resources" there.

"We have to get illegal guns off the street. We have to get the guns out of hands of dangerous people," Cuomo said. "We have to rebuild the police-community relationship."

Cuomo said gun violence is also a civil rights issue.

"Yes, education. Yes, employment. Yes, discrimination. But also, gun violence," the governor said. "Gun violence is hitting the black and brown communities the hardest and it's compounding the damage from COVID."

Cuomo outlined both short-term and long-term plans, including a so-called border war on the trafficking of firearms from states with looser gun laws. 

"We're going to form a special unit in the State Police to focus on the border and stop illegal guns from coming in. We're then going to work with our partner states, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania," Cuomo said. "We're going to share the data, get best practices on the traffic stops. We're going to work together to stop the illegal guns from coming into this State once and for all."

Robert McCrie, a professor at John Jay, told FOX 5 NY that he sees this as an essential move by the governor.

"It's very much an emergency for the city — it's a police matter, it's a societal matter, it's a public health matter," he said. "And it's taking this issue and putting it at a high level of attention and action."

Get breaking news alerts in the FOX 5 NY News app. Download for FREE!