Hochul announces significant progress in fight against gun violence

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Associated Press/Hans Pennink, file

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday announced significant progress in the state’s fight against gun violence, with New York City and communities participating in the state’s Gun Involved Violence Elimination (GIVE) initiative reporting the fewest shooting incidents with injury last month since the first half of 2020.

The 20 police departments participating in GIVE reported 50 shooting incidents with injury in January 2023, the fewest since March 2020, while New York City reported 73 incidents, the fewest since May 2020.

“We are taking major steps in the right direction, but these numbers are still too high,” said Gov. Hochul in outlining this progress at Northwell Health’s Fourth Annual Gun Violence Prevention Forum.  “Each and every incident is tragic, and each shooting represents an unquantifiable amount of pain and harm to victims and their communities.

“We must continue treating gun violence as the public health crisis that it is, by identifying the source, interrupting its transmission, and treating it,” she added.

Preliminary 2022 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data show that New York had the lowest firearm homicide rate of the 10 largest states in the country in 2021: 3.1 deaths per 100,000 residents, which is less than half of the national average of 6.3 deaths per 100,000 residents.

Similarly, New York City in 2022 recorded the third-lowest number of murders in the nation among the largest 20 cities, behind only San Jose and San Diego.

The governor said communities participating in GIVE and New York City both experienced double-digit decreases in shooting incidents with injury in 2022 when compared to 2021: 17 percent in New York City and 15 percent in GIVE jurisdictions.

She said law enforcement agencies across the state seized 10,093 guns last year, an 11 percent increase from 2021, during which 9,088 guns were seized.

Hochul said gun seizures by the New York State Police also increased 171 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels: 1,429 in 2022 compared to 528 seizures in 2019.

She said State Police also seized 120 ghost guns in 2022, which is 85 percent more than in 2021.

At the same time, the governor said the state has strengthened its Red Flag law, which keeps guns out of the hands of individuals who pose a risk to themselves or others.

She said courts had issued 1,308 extreme risk protection orders at the end of February 2022. In the 11 months since — through January 2023, courts had issued a total of 6,209 ERPOs, she said.

Hochul said her Executive Budget funds “a comprehensive public safety plan and investments to further drive down gun violence and violent crime using proven strategies” that work, including expanding the state’s Crime Analysis Center Network to New York City, bringing to 11 the number of centers in the network that is supported by the state in partnership with local law enforcement agencies.

She said the plan also involved doubling funding for the GIVE initiative to $36 million. GIVE supports 20 police departments in 17 counties that account for more than 80 percent of the violent crime that occurs in New York State outside of New York City: Albany, Broome, Chautauqua, Dutchess, Erie, Monroe, Nassau, Niagara, Oneida, Onondaga, Orange, Rensselaer, Rockland, Schenectady, Suffolk, Ulster and Westchester.

District attorneys’ offices, probation departments, sheriffs’ offices and other partners in those counties also receive funding through the initiative, the governor said.

She said her plans also bolsters State Police support by increasing Community Stabilization Units from 16 to 25 communities, funding an unprecedented four academy classes and expanding presence on federal task forces.

Through a unique partnership between the state Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Hochul said the state-supported Crime Analysis Center Network accesses the ATF’s National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN).

By this summer, she said each center will have technology on-site to process shell casings and identify potential matches from different crime scenes in multiple jurisdictions across the state.

“This identification process previously took up to a month but will now take 24 to 48 hours and has a 99.6 accuracy rating,” the governor said.

Her budget proposal also supports community-based organizations that offer services, support and opportunity to youth and families, including a $25 million continued investment in the state’s SNUG Street Outreach program.

SNUG programs employ staff who work with teens and young adults to detect and defuse disputes before they escalate; respond to shootings to prevent retaliation through mediation and assist family members of those who have been injured or killed; and mentor youth involved with the program to set goals and connect them with educational and job opportunities, as well as other services.

The programs also engage the community, religious organizations and clergy, and local businesses through rallies, special events and other community gatherings.

Hochul said social workers and case managers at SNUG sites provide those affected by gun violence or other crimes in the communities with trauma-informed counseling, support groups, advocacy and assistance with filing victim compensation applications with the state Office of Victim Services (OVS), and referrals for other services as identified or needed; and offer support and guidance to SNUG team members, many of whom have had complex experiences with trauma.

Since taking office, the governor said she has taken actions to strengthen New York State’s gun violence prevention laws by banning ghost guns, large capacity magazines and body armor; expanding bail eligibility for gun crimes; raising the age to purchase semi-automatic weapons to 21; and launching the first-in-the-nation Interstate Task Force on Illegal Guns, which will meet again in mid-March, among other initiatives.