When it comes to deflecting attention from his failures and alleged misdeeds, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo seems willing to try just about anything. From blaming everything on Trump to reaching out to the socialists by agreeing to jack up taxes for the wealthy, so far, nothing has quite allowed him to shake the stink. Well, almost nothing.
Recent polling shows the governor is extremely unpopular among New Yorkers – except for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. So, just two weeks after repealing the COVID-19 emergency, Cuomo has declared gun violence a new epidemic – and, once again, the Empire State is officially a disaster area. Can this latest move salvage what’s left of the governor’s shipwrecked career, or will the people decide the worst disaster they face is their own chief executive?
New York’s Latest Disaster
On July 6, Governor Cuomo declared yet another state of emergency, laying claim to certain emergency powers and suspending portions of established state law. “We went from one emergency to another,” Cuomo said during a news conference. “We went from COVID to the epidemic of gun violence and the fear, and the death, that goes along with it. It’s so bad when you look at the recent numbers; more people are dying of gun violence than of COVID.”
According to Executive Order 211, gun violence is up 48% in New York City, 22% in Albany, 88% in Buffalo, and 95% in Rochester since January 2021. Moreover, urban communities are “disproportionately affected” by this increase in violence – that most of the rise in crime occurs in the cities will come as little surprise to rural folk anywhere.
To fight this increase in crime, Cuomo claims he needs to “suspend certain provisions of law, rule, or regulation which would otherwise hamper the efforts of the state to respond to this crisis.” Those pesky rules he could do without include Sections 112, 135-a, 139-d, 139-i, 139-j, 139k, 163, and 163-a of the State Finance Law. These sections regulate contracts, leases, licenses, and permits. Any state contract that costs the New York taxpayers more than a certain amount of money, which varies by situation, has to be approved by the state comptroller.
Cuomo “directs” the creation of the Office of Gun Violence Prevention and the Governor’s Council on Gun Violence Reduction. Presumably, this is how he plans to collect and analyze the data to figure out what to do next, as mentioned in his eighth “Whereas” clause. After all, as he says in the tenth, “the state has an obligation to act in a manner consistent with the science and data on gun violence in order to prevent imminent and immediate harm to communities across the state.”
Much Ado About Nothing?
What will this order accomplish? Well, it will cost New Yorkers a lot more in tax money than they already have to fork over; that’s practically a given. It will almost certainly be used to track the demographic information of victims and, where applicable, offenders, which could actually result in a government response that has the potential to reduce crime without significantly impacting individual liberty – if the powers that be are willing to look deep enough to address the root causes of violent behavior. Most likely, however, it will simply result in new strict gun control laws in the state – quite possibly targeted to specific groups based on the demographic data collected by law enforcement. In a state with some of the strictest restrictions already in place, it seems unclear how adding more laws would make the situation any better – yet along with his new emergency, Cuomo announced his intention to sign a bill making it easier to sue gun manufacturers for violence committed with their products.
But is there any real meat to Cuomo’s new emergency, or is it simply a beleaguered politician’s cry for help ahead of an election in which he seems doomed? Will the people forget the scandals and their own complaints and give their governor a fourth term in 2022 – or will they decide Andrew Cuomo is one disaster they can do without?
Read more from James Fite.