New York governor declares gun violence a health emergency

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New York has become the first US state to declare a disaster emergency order to address rising gun violence.

New York state saw 51 shootings over the 4 July holiday weekend, Governor Andrew Cuomo said as he signed the executive order.

The directive will funnel $138.7m (£100m) towards gun violence intervention and prevention programmes.

It comes amid reports of a rise in gun deaths countrywide, including nearly 200 over the past weekend.

In March, the FBI released preliminary 2020 statistics showing a significant jump – 25% – in murders from the year before. So far, the upward trend has continued into 2021. In the US, the majority of homicides are gun-related.

US President Joe Biden unveiled a White House strategy to combat the rise in homicides in late June, which includes curtailing rogue gun dealers and firearms trafficking. It also delegates more funding for personnel – including law enforcement.

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Governor Cuomo's state disaster declaration describes gun violence as a public health crisis, and made several comparisons to the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting public health response.

"If you look at the recent numbers, more people are now dying from gun violence and crime than Covid," the Democratic governor 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."

What's in the order?

Mr Cuomo's emergency declaration releases emergency funds that he will direct towards:

  • Creating a gun violence prevention office, to be overseen by New York's department of health
  • Requiring police departments to provide incident-level data on shootings
  • Investing $57m in summer job programmes for at-risk youth
  • Combating flow of out-of-state firearms

As New York emerged as the epicentre of the US coronavirus outbreak last year, Mr Cuomo was widely hailed by US media for his handling of the pandemic.

He has since faced accusations of a cover-up since it emerged his office undercounted Covid-19 deaths among its nursing home residents by thousands, after his administration issued a directive in March 2020 ordering those facilities to take in coronavirus patients.

Scrutiny of the governor was compounded by multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, including those of current and former state employees – which he denies.

A recent poll by Siena College found that just one-third of voters in the majority Democratic state want Mr Cuomo to run for re-election. Nearly a quarter of those polled said he should resign immediately.

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