New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday he had signed an executive order declaring a gun violence emergency and told an audience in New York City he was going to sign legislation that allows for civil lawsuits against gun manufacturers, distributors and dealers for how they market and sell firearms.
The new law would close what he said was a “Trump-backed federal loophole” that allowed people with active warrants to purchase guns.
The statute says industry stakeholders can be held liable for the illegal or “unreasonable” sale, manufacture, distribution, importing or marketing of firearms that cause harm to the public as a “public nuisance.”
It prohibits false marketing and requires gun industry players to take steps to prevent theft and illegal or unreasonable sales of firearms.
The statute explicitly allows the state attorney general and corporate counsel for local municipalities to sue them when those stipulations are violated.
Private citizens could also sue under the new law if they endured damages “as a result of a gun industry member’s acts or omissions,” it says.
The governor noted there were at least 51 shooting victims across the state over the Fourth of July weekend.
When you break down the numbers, Cuomo said, there are more people dying in New York of gun violence and crime than of Covid-19.
“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.
He said the legislation will do what Washington refused to do: to hold gun manufacturers “legally liable for the death and destruction their businesses cause.”
The governor said over the weekend 14 people were shot in Buffalo, five were shot in Syracuse, three were shot on Long Island, two were shot in Utica, one person was shot in Rochester and 26 people were shot in New York City.
Cuomo said that shootings were up 38% in New York City through the first six months of 2021, as compared to the same time period in 2020.
However, in the month of June, city officials noted that gun arrests were up nearly 100% compared to 2020 while shootings, shooting victims and murders were down from a year ago.
Cuomo on Tuesday also announced new legislation which would prohibit 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.
The announcement at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice came as the governor unveiled a plan to combat gun violence.
Cuomo broke down parts of the executive order into seven key areas:
• Treating gun violence as a public health emergency
• Targeting hot spots where gun violence is coming from
• Having positive engagements with at-risk youth
• Breaking the cycle of escalating violence
• Getting illegal guns off the streets
• Keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people
• Rebuilding the police-community relationship
New York will invest $138.7 million in creating intervention, prevention and jobs programs designed for at-risk youth in the state with the goal of getting young people off the streets, he said.
“It’s a matter of life and death also and we can’t afford not to commit ourselves 100% to this effort and spend what we need to spend,” Cuomo said.
New York will be the first state to create an office within the department of public health aimed at preventing gun violence, the governor said. One of the first action items from the executive order will be to require police departments across the state to submit incident-level data revealing exactly where all shootings have taken place.
The governor’s office said 74% of guns used during crimes were purchased out of state.
Cuomo said New York would be commencing a border war against illegal guns.
“I have a vision of a border war because we wasted so much time and money in this nation fighting illegal immigration,” he said. “Illegal immigration is not killing Americans! Illegal guns are killing Americans.”
A new gun trafficking interdiction unit will focus on the state’s borders to stop illegal gun trafficking.
Drawing a comparison between New York’s rich and poor residents, Cuomo highlighted what he posited as the reality of at-risk youth stuck in the city who have few options but to run “up and down the hallways” or “go to the little broken-down playground” where they have nothing, “no activities, no support, nothing,” he said.
The governor said the best way to address these youths and their situation is to provide them with job opportunities. Cuomo said his office would make a $57 million investment aimed at creating 21,000 jobs for at-risk youth this summer.
Another program would is aimed at providing jobs for 2,400 young people in communities most impacted by gun violence, he said. The state would pay up to 100% of the salaries of jobs offered through the program.
Praising violence intervention programs, Cuomo cited a program implemented at a hospital in the Bronx where “shootings fell 60% in that precinct when you intervened with people in the hospitals.”
The state will “create a new hospital-based violence intervention program in hotspot communities” working off the model studied at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx.
Cuomo also announced that he would be increasing money for outreach programs and triple funding for sports, arts, and recreational facilities in hotspot areas across the state.
NYPD gun arrests up sharply in June
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio credited the New York Police Department and the end of Covid-19 restrictions with an improvement in crime statistics last month.
“Look, we have a long way to go, but we saw some real progress, we saw some change in the month of June,” said de Blasio. “And that speaks volumes on the impact of the work of the NYPD working with communities, but also the impact of the recovery itself.”
According to crime stats, the department made 361 gun arrests for the month of June — which is a 99.4% increase compared to the same period in 2020.
“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.
For the month of June, shootings were down from 205 to 165, shooting victims are down 26% and murders are down just over 23%, from 43 to 33 year over year, de Blasio and Shea said.
Earlier this year, the NYPD and the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives formed a partnership in an effort to reduce gun violence and stop the flow of illegal guns into the city.
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