New York has become the first US state to declare a disaster emergency order to address rocketing gun violence.
The state saw 51 shootings over the 4 July holiday weekend, Governor Andrew Cuomo said as he signed the executive order. “More people are now dying from gun violence and crime than Covid.”
There were just 13 Covid deaths over the holiday weekend.
Governor Cuomo’s state disaster declaration describes gun violence as a public health crisis, and made several comparisons to the public health response to the pandemic.
“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.”
The governor said the violence largely hits communities of colour and is a statewide problem.
The emergency directive will funnel US$140 million towards gun violence intervention and prevention programmes.
Across the US there has been a rise in gun deaths, including nearly 200 over the holiday weekend.
In New York, shootings in its major cities were up 40% last year compared to 2019 as the Covid-19 pandemic wanes, state data showed.
In March, the FBI released preliminary 2020 statistics showing a 25% jump in murders over 2019. So far, the upward trend has continued into 2021.
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.
As New York emerged as the epicentre of the US coronavirus outbreak last year, Cuomo was widely hailed by US media for his handling of the pandemic.
He has since faced accusations of a cover-up after it emerged his office undercounted Covid-19 deaths among its nursing home residents by thousands.
Scrutiny of the governor was compounded by multiple allegations of sexual misconduct from current and former state employees – which he denies.
Cuomo told reporters his biggest priority now is to rebuild the relationship between the public and police, which has been strained by police brutality cases.