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Gov. Andrew Cuomo Declares Gun Violence Emergency In New York

NOEL KING, HOST:

New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo has declared a state of emergency on account of gun violence. Like a lot of places, New York state is seeing a significant increase in shootings. Fifty-one people were shot this past weekend alone in the state. NPR's Jasmine Garsd is following this story from New York City. Good morning, Jas (ph).

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Good morning.

KING: Governor Cuomo said yesterday that this is a public health concern.

GARSD: Yes, this is in keeping with how the Biden administration has characterized gun violence as a public health concern. In fact, Cuomo compared it to the COVID-19 pandemic.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANDREW CUOMO: We went from one epidemic to another epidemic. We went from COVID to the epidemic of gun violence.

GARSD: And so what Governor Cuomo did yesterday is lay out a seven-point comprehensive plan to address this other epidemic. He wants to use science and data to identify gun violence hot spots, kind of like what the government did with COVID - find a hot spot, get in there, address it.

KING: People are worried about gun violence in New York City, where you are, but they are also, as I understand it, worried about the response to gun violence.

GARSD: Absolutely. Gun violence has been a major topic in the city. Here in New York, there's this sense that people are more on edge. But on the other hand, as shootings rise, one thing I keep hearing from activists and academics is a concern that there will be a knee-jerk reaction of more heavy-handed policing, like a return to the tough-on-crime era, where, you know, many worry that this would indiscriminately target communities of color. Governor Cuomo does seem aware of that. He pledged to put more money into things to help curb violence, like community resources, youth activities, jobs for young people.

KING: It sounds like he is aware of the fact that there's a tension between law enforcement and the people that they are meant to serve. In fact, there's quite a lot of tension.

GARSD: Yes, some of the communities that are suffering the most from gun violence are the ones that have the most strained relationships with the police. I've been spending a lot of time this summer in Far Rockaway, Queens, where there's a noticeable spike in shootings, and I've been hanging out with an organization called Rock Safe Streets. They address the cycle of violence. I asked one of their violence interrupters, whose name is Eugene Finley (ph) - he goes by Floss - what the state of police community relations is.

EUGENE FINLEY: The community relationship with the police is none, really, right now. Nobody in the community is going to relate to any cop.

GARSD: And so in his press conference yesterday, Governor Cuomo said he wants to open a dialogue between police and communities. He acknowledged it is not easy.

KING: And let me ask you lastly - he also talked about illegal guns. And we should say that New York has strict gun laws, but the entire point of illegal guns is that they're illegal.

GARSD: Yes. As we've covered previously, New York, like several other cities, is really ramping up its efforts to crack down on illegal weapons coming into the state from places with laxer gun laws. It's part of a federal-local collaboration. But another part of Cuomo's plan that really stood out to me is that he signed a bill allowing the public to hold gun manufacturers liable for instances like mass shootings. It's likely to be challenged, but Governor Cuomo himself said, quote, "New York is going to do what Congress didn't do," which, Noel, is to say, hold gunmakers accountable.

KING: That could be an interesting fight. NPR's Jasmine Garsd. Thank you for your reporting, Jasmine. We appreciate it.

GARSD: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.