The month of June is recognized as Gun Violence Awareness Month and state lawmakers and advocates are pushing for more legislation and funding to combat the problem.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports there were 1,078 gun-related deaths in New York in 2021, the latest year data is available. The U.S. saw an increase in gun violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nationwide, there were 48,830 gun-related deaths in 2021, the highest of any other year on record.
New York has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, but state Sen. Zellnor Myrie, D-Brooklyn, said more can be done before the end of the legislative session June 8.
Myrie noted a bill passed the state Senate last week that would redefine the term “mass shooting” to mean a shooting incident that involves one or more firearms during which four or more people, other than the shooter, are injured or killed. Currently, the state has no legal definition for mass shootings. The definition is aligned with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s legal definition.
By defining “mass shooting,” the bill’s goal is to unlock emergency funding and access to programs, such as crisis response and mental health assistance.
“The bill passed in the Senate last week with every single Republican in the chamber voting, ‘Yes.’ That doesn’t happen often,” he said. “It’s a testament to how dire the situation is that we have laid partisan politics on the ground.”
Assemblywoman Monique Chandler-Waterman, D-Brooklyn, sponsors the bill in the Assembly. She said while the state is seeing a drop in shootings so-far this year compared to 2022, that brings little comfort to families that have already lost people to gun violence.
“We need common sense gun laws that will take the gloves off to hold [gun] manufacturers and traffickers accountable,” she said. “This is a bi-partisan issue, costing lives and impacting the future of our country. I’m calling on everyone, regardless of affiliations, to join us in this effort.”
New York lawmakers returned to Albany last summer after the U.S. The Supreme Court struck down a case that invalidated the state’s old system for granting concealed carry gun permits in public. State lawmakers passed legislation to overhaul the state’s permit system, which is currently being challenged in court. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the state can for now continue to enforce one of the laws, which bans guns from “sensitive places,” defined as schools and playgrounds.
The new laws also require those seeking a permit to provide a list of their social media accounts, provide four character references and take 16 hours of firearms safety training, in addition to background checks.