Working to decrease gun violence is a no-brainer, but how to go about reducing the number of shootings, injuries and fatalities caused by guns is proving to be a question whose answers are hard to decide on.
Law enforcement officials say that getting guns off the streets enhances public safety, and that reducing the number of guns generally leads to a decline not only in shootings, but also in other crimes.
The Nassau County Police Department recently noted that while major crimes like arson, burglary, homicide, kidnapping and rape were down across the board, gunshot incident numbers are ticking upward.
In 2020, when a majority of people remained at home as the coronavirus pandemic raged, there were 68 shots fired across Nassau. This year, with the county opening up again, there were 95 shots fired from January through the end of July, a 39 percent increase thus far.
From 2009 to 2019, the NCPD reported a reduction of 36.5 percent in gun-related violent crimes, and a 27.5 percent decrease in shooting incidents that resulted in injury. From 2014 to 2019, there was a 14.3 percent decline in the number of people shot. NCPD officials say taking firearms off the street has brought about those improvements. Its gun suppression team collected 40 guns in 2020, and has surpassed that number this year, officials said.
To enhance the work being done by the police, the county has embraced the state gun violence initiative announced in July by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who called gun violence a public health crisis. In making the announcement, Cuomo noted that there had been 26 shootings across the state over the Fourth of July weekend, including three on Long Island.
As part of the state’s new initiative, Nassau will receive $900,000 of a total of $16 million to help 180 18- to 24-year-olds who are unemployed, out of school and considered at risk of potentially becoming involved in crime. Another $500,000 will go to the Village of Hempstead to help 100 people in the same age group. Uniondale was also identified as a gun violence hot spot.
County Executive Laura Curran has said she supports Cuomo’s executive order. We endorse it as well. We believe the problem of gun violence should be seen more as a public health issue than as a recurring problem in only one portion of the community. As Dr. Chethan Sathya, the director of Northwell Health’s Gun Violence Prevention Center, noted, viewing the issue of gun violence through the lens of public health helps to depolarize and depoliticize it, and encourages the use of a public health model similar to the efforts to reduce traffic accidents, cigarette smoking, the transmission of HIV/AIDS and substance abuse.
The more money and research that can be dedicated to gun violence prevention, the more likely officials will be to determine what works and what doesn’t, Sathya said.
“We can’t afford not to commit ourselves 100 percent to this effort,” the advocacy group New Yorkers Against Gun Violence group tweeted of the state initiative. We agree. But it also needs the support of other organizations — groups that support guns, respect their responsible use and understand their power as a destructive force — every day, more than a hundred Americans are killed by guns, and 230 are shot and wounded, according to the nonprofit Every Town for Gun Safety.
To help make the state initiative work, the Department of Labor will join forces with local workforce development boards and their networks of community partners to provide job training, certification and career placement services. In addition, gun violence intervention and prevention strategies will be coordinated by the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services and the Office of Victim Services.
We also call on the National Rifle Association and all other legitimate regional and local gun organizations to join the battle against gun violence by using their influence to help ensure that that violence can be reduced to the point where the state’s program is no longer needed.