NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared gun violence a disaster emergency in New York on Tuesday, freeing up additional funding and resources to combat shootings statewide.

The governor, speaking during an event at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said his plan includes short-term and long-term actions that treat gun violence as a public health crisis.

“We want to do with gun violence what we did with COVID,” Cuomo said. “It’s a matter of saving lives.”

Additional actions include:

  • Targeting gun violence hotspots with data and science
  • Positive engagement for at-risk youth
  • Breaking the cycle of escalating violence
  • Getting illegal guns off the streets
  • Keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people

The governor’s office set aside $138.7 million for investments in intervention and prevention programs, including initiatives that provide summer job opportunities for at-risk youth.

The first-in-the-nation gun violence disaster emergency also allows for the creation of the Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

Police departments will be mandated to provide incident-level data on gun violence with the state Division of Criminal Justice Services on a weekly basis. The newly created Office of Gun Violence Prevention will then use that data to target gun violence hotspots and craft crime prevention strategies.

Meanwhile, a new State Police Gun Trafficking Interdiction Unit will be tasked with stopping illegal guns from entering New York.

Another part of the governor’s plan will be rebuilding police-community relationships statewide, including more community-based services and more responsive approaches to 911 calls.

“Not everything needs handcuffs and a gun,” Cuomo said.

The governor also renewed his call for reforming police departments while simultaneously combatting gun violence.

New York City has seen an alarming spike in gun violence since last year. Over the Fourth of July weekend, 26 people were shot between Friday and early Sunday morning. Comparatively, 13 people died of COVID statewide, Cuomo said.

“We went from one epidemic to another epidemic,” the governor said.

And just like with COVID, gun violence shines a light on systemic infrastructure inequalities in Black, brown and low-income communities, Cuomo added.

“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,” the governor said.