February 28, 2023
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Hochul Announces Significant Progress in the State's Fight Against Gun Violence

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Hochul Announces Significant Progress in the State's Fight Against Gun Violence

New York Had Lowest Firearm Homicide Rate Among the Country's 10 Largest States in 2021; Last Year, New York City Had Third-Lowest Number of Murders Among the Nation's 20 Largest Cities

Twenty Police Departments Participating in State's Gun Involved Violence Elimination (GIVE) Initiative Reported 50 Shooting Incidents with Injury in January 2023, Fewest Since the Onset of the Pandemic in March 2020

New York City Reported 73 Shootings Last Month, Fewest Since May 2020

Governor Hochul: "I'm going to continue treating gun violence as the public health crisis that it is. We are currently under a public health state of emergency because of gun violence and how do you deal with a public health crisis? You identify the source, you interrupt its transmission, and then you treat it."

Hochul: "This is not a health crisis that has to continue at this caliber right now, at this level. It can be eradicated. But it takes will, it takes courage. It takes the ability to stand up against loud voices and loud organizations across this country. But I know that human life is worth it."

Earlier today, Governor Kathy Hochul 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 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. Governor Hochul outlined this progress at Northwell Health's Fourth Annual Gun Violence Prevention Forum.

VIDEO of the event is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.

AUDIO of the event is available here.

PHOTOS of the event are available on the Governor's Flickr page.

A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:

Good morning, everyone. And those of you who are not New Yorkers, I'm sorry. But welcome, welcome to our state. We're delighted to host you, people from around the world, in pursuit of a discussion, which will hopefully lead to changes back in your home states. And I want to thank Michael Dowling for being the convener.

In New York State, Northwell was the guiding star for many of us during the pandemic. And your credibility as having been in positions of public health leaders in our state all the way to your work now has been extraordinary. And I continue to draw on your experiences, Michael, and everyone at Northwell.

So, thank you for hosting this. And I was just listening to the words of our Surgeon General, and they were powerful, a reminder for how each of us in our own walks of life - our physicians, our hospital leaders - have a role to play in ending this seemingly never-ending cycle of violence, which has destroyed the lives of so many.

I see some of my friends in the room - Linda Beigel Schulman. Linda, thank you for your courage. We reference the courage of your own son who sacrificed his own life to save his own students at the Parkland massacre and the shooting. And so, I thank you, and to all the other mothers, a mom from Uvalde who lost a nine-year-old, the pain is real. It never goes away. And that's particularly hard for people in the healing, helping profession because you're all hardwired to save lives, to save people, and give them hope, and to not be the one that has to console a family in a waiting room and tell them that we tried hard. We tried so hard, but they didn't make it.

So, I look at people in this room who deal with this in a very different way than those of us who are the policymakers and the ones who are able to put money behind projects. I look at you as really the ones who are in the trenches, and the people you lead are in the trenches. It's something that shouldn't be. It just should not be. We haven't even started March yet, two months into 2023, and we've already had 80 mass shootings in the United States of America. And that masks the daily shootings, the daily violence, so we're not just focusing on the ones that get attention in the nightly news, and people tweet and send their thoughts and prayers, and politicians visit.

I'm talking about the day-to-day violence that is destroying precious lives and the ripple effect of that, what it does to a community, the trauma inflicted on a neighborhood. And I've been to many of these crime scenes a day or two afterward, and people try to go on with their normal lives, but there's always that crime scene tape that's still flapping in the wind, a reminder, maybe a younger sibling of someone who's not coming home, but it's also the victims' families, as well as the families of the perpetrators, the shooters. Imagine being the parents or the siblings of someone whose older brother was just on the news, being hauled off to jail for something they had done that was so horrible. And those families are left in a state of trauma.

So, again, I reach out to those of you in this healing profession. I'm joined with you. My number one job as Governor for the last 18 months has been to keep New Yorkers safe any way we can - any way. And part of that was through the pandemic. I took office right before - we thought we were heading out of it. We're doing good, we're doing good. And all of a sudden, probably around November 25, 2021, the World Health Organization identified something known as Omicron. So I had to deal with that as a brand-new Governor and pulling together a health care team and trying to work with people like Michael Dowling and others to figure out how we get through this one.

We had more people hospitalized because of that crisis, that health care crisis. But what seemed to rise in the aftermaths was a health care crisis that had always been there but went up exponentially. Crime in this country during the pandemic, 2020, 2021, 2022, it went off the charts. And you have to wonder what happened to society that would drive that behavior at a scale never before seen. It's extraordinary - not since the seventies, the nineties, those decades we talked about hoping to never experience them again.

So, I look at the impacts of gun violence today - the impact on victims, families, and the families of the shooters. Impacts on neighborhoods where violence is occurring, what that trauma does to kids walking off to school, knowing what had happened the night before. But also the impact on hospitals and our health care systems, and by extension, the economy because the costs are extraordinary.

So, fear can be contagious. When people live in a neighborhood and senior citizens are afraid to go to the drugstore to pick up their prescriptions, little kids don't go to playgrounds anymore - it's not just because there might be broken glass, but there's also the shells of guns that have been shot the night before and maybe some blood stains on the basketball court.

It affects people in a mental way, in a mental health way, which is another reason why I have leaned hard into mental health as Governor. First state in the nation, first time in our history to say in my budget released a month ago, that we are dealing with mental health as well. $1 billion I'm putting toward dealing with the whole continuum of care necessary. It's not just adding more beds and step-down programs, it's the long-term impact and staying with people, staying with people so they don't end up on our streets here in New York or elsewhere.

But most importantly to me right now is making sure we get mental health dollars into our schools so we can eradicate what the kids are going through, help them now before we end up having to invest in their entire lifetime. Let's deal with this now, the root causes, let's be in that nurturing environment. So, I'm thinking about the impact on families and communities and neighborhoods, what we in government can do. And I do believe we have a role in providing resources to those who are the providers and elevating the profession of mental health providers, give them the status they deserve, because they are also the ones that are going to stop our citizens from literally going off the edge. So, let's find out ways to not just fund programs to bring more people into the profession, and people specialize in this as well so we don't have a shortage, which we're experiencing right now.

So, the cost to the economy is over a billion dollars a year, I think that's probably understated. But I'm going to continue treating gun violence as the public health crisis that it is. We are currently under a public health state of emergency because of gun violence. And how do you deal with a public health crisis? You identify the source, you interrupt its transmission, and then you treat it. Right? I don't know this, I'm just guessing, you're the ones who know. But there's proven strategies out there, right? This is not the first time we've dealt with it. There are proven strategies and ultimately we need to change the harmful behavior.

So, you think about how we've tried to change people's behavior in the past. I heard the Surgeon General mention seat belts in cars, warning labels on cigarettes, occupational safety. All of a sudden you change the psychology around something that was taken for granted. Who's ever going to wear a car seat belt? "Oh my God, that's restricting our liberties and our freedom."

I remember driving to Florida with six siblings in the back seat and the baby's on my lap, the other two-year-olds are climbing over the steering wheel. We didn't know what seat belts were, but we saved thousands of lives by instituting those changes, and I would say it was so worth it.

And we're talking about cigarettes now. So many people are dying from menthol cigarettes, which have particularly insidious qualities where they create more of an addiction than non-menthol cigarettes do, and they're targeted to Black and Brown communities from the very beginning. They're hooking the teenagers because they're very savvy, they're very smart, these tobacco companies. They can get a lifetime customer by just grabbing you when you're 14 or 15, right? That's a lot of money in their pockets until you die gasping because of lung cancer. They don't worry about that end. They've got you for most of your life.

So, we talk about how we as society, government, and health care professionals have identified threats before to safety and have made dramatic changes. So, I say, "Why aren't we doing that right now with the public health crisis from gun violence?" Let's treat it the same way, with the same sense of urgency, that same sense of coming together, and being on the same page.

And different states react differently. I won't call out states, just in case you're from there. Anybody here from Texas? Florida? Okay, Florida, Texas. We have what we proudly say is the nation leading five point response to the gun violence crisis. We have that here in New York. There'sother enlightened states — California, others. If this was a 50 state strategy that I'm going to talk about in the next couple minutes, I think we could drive down the numbers dramatically. I really do. I really do. Now, I've been in public life most of my adult life since I was a young attorney for Senator Moynihan a long time ago on Capitol Hill. I've seen it all. I've seen it all. I was there when we had assault weapon bans. It made so much sense.

And then to live long enough to see that ban repealed, or not renewed after a decade and we're still fighting. Can you imagine what this country would be like if we had kept that ban in place? Maybe I wouldn't have had to go home on May 14 and comfort the families of the Buffalo Tops shooting - a grocery store, literally 10 minutes from where my home is. It was my neighborhood. I knew the people there well. Many friends. Maybe if we had banned AR-15s across the country, he wouldn't have been able to go down to Pennsylvania and get a high-capacity magazine that created the ability to slaughter so many people.

So I'll tell you what we're doing here in New York, but my God, I wish we could do this across the country. I really, really do. That could be - we get these weapons of war off the streets. We have banned - I came back from that.

I was so committed to saying, "Never again. At least the State of New York will stand up." And we banned large capacity magazines. We banned body armor because the individual - the 18-year-old - who came in and committed this slaughter, was wearing body armor. And when the security guard tried to take him down, he couldn't.

We also raised the age for people to be able to acquire them. Now, I don't think they should be able to acquire them at all, but I got to deal with the Supreme Court. Well we raised the age. But the Supreme Court dealt us a very severe blow to our efforts to keep New Yorkers safe just last June - the same week, practically, they decide to overturn Roe v. Wade, which is about, I thought, as bad as it can get.

They also overturned a law that had been on the books for 100 years in the State of New York, protecting individuals from concealed carry weapons. Because we in New York think that maybe when you're riding on a subway with thousands of other people, you shouldn't be carrying a gun. Radical, I know. But the Supreme Court disagreed with us. They struck down our law as an infringement on the Second Amendment to say that you can't have concealed carry weapons.

Well, we went back to Albany. Said, "No, we're going to push, we're going to keep pushing." And we also restricted where concealed carry weapons can be carried - subways, sensitive areas, like I declared Times Square a sensitive area. Visit Times Square if you're from out of town, but do not carry a gun there because we have a restricted area. Also, many other places where, you know - schools, and places of worship. We required background checks.

We required safe gun storage. I mean, this is something I know, you know, pediatricians were asking me when I brought my kids in, "Do you have any guns?" "No." "But if you do, you'd store them right?" "Yes." But that's the conversations that the Surgeon General was just talking about, you know, the conversations that you can have. We made sure we moved very, very quickly, and we made all that the law of our state.

But also changing the law is one thing. But I also knew we had to keep supporting our community and hospital-based programs and give the resources that these institutions needed to stop the cycle of violence and prevent future harm. And we distributed over $30 million just last fall to these institutions, and really supporting programs for youth engagement and those violence disruptor programs that I believe to my core in. They are so impactful.

My husband was a federal prosecutor for many years, United States Attorney under Barack Obama. And he developed deep friendships with the leaders, people who had been previously incarcerated, but wanted to come over and use their life's experiences and to help turn people around. So we were supportive. And friends, I saw some of these individuals yesterday, and they're so grateful that people in government recognize their value and will support them financially. Because doctors, of course, are trusted allies, but in some neighborhoods and in the streets, it's someone that you saw go off the jail and come back, and they can tell you a very different story. And they're the ones that can lead you to a different outcome in life, lead you to a healthy experience and jobs and staying in school.

[Fire Alarm Ringing]

God, I'm listening, God, I'm listening. It's New York, it happens all the time. I'm going to keep going.

So, we tripled the amount of our investments in those programs because they do work and they're truly, truly making a difference. But I have some good news though. I've talked about all the different strategies we have - the mental health side, investing in our hospitals, our community programs, tough, tough laws, and now we have data that shows the impact of this.

The best news is that shootings in New York State are on the decline. We have reversed the trend. We have reversed the trend where the numbers were going up. Even this time last year, the numbers were frighteningly high. The first two months of last year, gun violence rates were 80 percent higher than they were two years before. We were heading up like this. This year we reversed it completely, and in 2022, we've had a double digit decrease in homicides and shootings here in the city. Now, New York City, down 15 percent compared to 2021.

[Fire Alarm Ringing]

We probably should listen. It's usually burnt toast. That happens in my hotel at 3:00 AM. I don't know who's making toast at 3:00 AM.

But so let me give you the good news because you have to hear this. Okay. Outside New York City, shootings have dropped 15 percent just compared the year before. New York City down 17 percent - down 17 percent. I don't think you're seeing that in the headlines. And shootings in my hometown of Buffalo, even with the massacre of 10 of my neighbors, they're down 33 percent, Long Island down 29 percent.

Those are numbers that we're proud of. And we've had the fewest shootings - we're really tracking by the day. I watch the numbers incessantly and make sure that we're heading in the right direction. New York City, just in the month of January, the fewest shootings we've had since the pandemic started. So, all these numbers, I mean, they're statistics, they're numbers. They don't tell the human story because one act of violence is one too many. One loss of life is too many. We understand that, but at least we're moving in the right direction.

But there's another area that's so important - the red flag laws. And sometimes some of you and your organizations will become aware that someone could do harm to themselves or others. That's the whole genius behind the red flag laws, and they were not working as well as we wanted to. I made them mandatory to our State Police initially, that if someone's going to do harm to themselves or others, I want the justice system involved. I want the guns taken away because I'd rather be in the business of preventing crime than solving crime. And red flag laws allow us to do that.

So, we just enacted it last June. Just since then, we've had 6,200 orders of protection compared to 1,300 a year ago before we really ramped this up and focused attention and training on this. That's a 375 percent increase in a matter of months. Those are guns that are not in the hands of someone who could do harm to others. That's how we're making a difference.

So, we're going to keep doing that, but also the last part of our approach is intercepting illegal guns before they come here. We're working across state borders, trying to stop violent crimes. I did something that no Governor has done before. I brought together nine neighboring states, pulled them all in a room, leadership from the top on down, law enforcement. Said, "We should be working together because criminal enterprises work across state lines. Right? Why don't we get out ahead of this. Why don't we work across state lines?"

And I'm about to be introducing a few more new Governors to our coalition, but right now we have nine states. President Biden came here and praised this. Steve Dettelbach talked about how this is the model of what we should be doing, is sharing data because they are crossing state lines. They're coming up from everywhere, including Pennsylvania, right on our border.

Gun shows, people loading up guns in their trunks from gun shows that are legal, crossing into New York State - they're no longer legal, and they're ending up on the streets in the Bronx and Buffalo. So that's what we're talking about, is how we can have more cooperation. Just be thoughtful about this, think about all the capabilities and possibilities you have.

Also, our New York State Police. I have my own State Police Force. Now, believe me, they're still catching speeders on the Thruway. But I said, "You know what? Okay, slow down, slow down." But I also said, "Okay, that's important. But also, let's pull you in to be part of the solution." So, I have them watching on the borders to be able to confiscate guns flowing in here from other states, and I've literally deployed our State Police to be on the grounds in cities like Rochester and Syracuse where the Mayors last year, were calling out for help to us, "Please help us. Our crime rates are going up." They're on the streets right now as we speak.

No one has done that before, but I said, "I have the resources, you have the need. We're going to make it work." So, we're sharing data, surveillance, we're on the ground, and we've also had gun seizures up 171 percent as a result of this shifting of priorities by the State Police. Again, more guns off the street. Over 10,000 between all of our state agencies.

Ghost guns, do you hear of ghost guns? People could order a package online, have it delivered and assemble a lethal weapon at their kitchen table and go out and use it undetected. So, we banned the ghost guns. We also seized 120 last year, 85 percent more than the year before because nobody was seizing them. They weren't illegal. We made them illegal.

So, lastly, I just want to say we are putting a tremendous amount of money in this, this year, $337 million, increasing my investment last year, my very first budget by over a $100 million. Because if we don't start putting money out there into the communities, the violence disruption programs, the afterschool programs, the mental health programs, supporting our law enforcement, supporting everybody who's part of the criminal justice system, then we are going to be failing our people.

And I will not accept that as an outcome. We have lost too many lives, and I can tell you right now, we are a model for other states. When you look at our percentage of murders per hundred thousand, now again, we're not just saying we're a big city and we have a lot of crime. We're saying compare us by a hundred thousand. There are only two places in America, two places in America that have a lower murder rate, shooting rate, than New York City. San Antonio is one of them. Not San Antonio. It's not San Antonio. It is San Diego. I was just saying that to see if you're all paying attention. Clearly it was not San Antonio.

So, you compare us to states like Florida and Texas. I have a graph that'll just, it's mind boggling to see the difference in the number of shootings in the states that do not take this seriously, do not have gun laws like we do, do not invest resources from state government, and lives are being saved here that are being lost in other states because of the lack of will from political leadership.

And that's what I want to focus on as well, because we don't have to be in this state of affairs. We do not have to be here. This is not a health crisis that has to continue at this caliber right now, at this level. It can be eradicated. But it takes will, it takes courage. It takes the ability to stand up against loud voices and loud organizations across this country. But I know that human life is worth it.

And just - thank you. And just, my goal is to make sure that you and your practices spend less time holding the hand of someone taking their last breath because of a gunshot wound and walking in that waiting room and giving the worst news that a human being can ever hear that their loved one has passed.

That's why we're in this together. And I appreciate all you're doing, your willingness to sit here, right here today and be part of helping us solve this. Give me your ideas, what else should government be doing, and I will partner with you because we have to get this done. Thank you very much.

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