The creation of a research institute to study gun violence in New York was signed into law Monday by Gov. Kathy Hochul, who also approved a companion bill that would provide funds through a voluntary check-off box on a state income tax form.
Approval of the bill comes as policymakers and elected officials have acknowledged the rise in shootings across the country and in New York state cities over the last year.
The research institute is meant to provide a better understanding of gun violence, putting it on the same level of research given to car crashes, cancer, heart disease and tobacco usage.
"New York has led the nation on implementing effective, common sense gun safety policies, and the new Firearm Violence Research Institute further cements our commitment to fighting the scourge of gun violence," Hochul said. "This institute will be a world-class hub for helping us understand the full scope of this ongoing crisis, providing the tools we need to save lives, keep our communities safe and put an end to the gun violence epidemic."
The measure, backed by Sen. Roxanne Persaud and Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon, will find ways of identifying solutions to gun violence and build off work that is currently underway at the State University of New York. It will provide advice to the governor and governmental agencies as well as work with the state Legislature on ways of reducing gun violence.
"Under this new law, SUNY's tremendous research capacity will be employed to identify solutions to solve gun violence, a public health crisis that disproportionately impacts New Yorkers, and many in my district," Persaud said.
At the same time, the research institute will have funds directed to it voluntarily by taxpayers with an optional contribution.
"Thousands of Americans are killed by guns every year — it's a national crisis and the number of victims just keeps rising," said Sen. Elijah Reichlin-Melnick. "The causes of the gun violence epidemic are complex and finding solutions that work is extremely challenging. I'm proud to have sponsored this bill to create a gun violence research fund, which will empower our state universities to explore the root causes of gun violence and help create systemic solutions to save lives across New York State."
Federal funding of gun violence research in 1996 was barred, and advocates have argued limited resarch in the field. That has put more focus on local efforts to develop ways of combatting gun violence. New York in 2018 joined a multi-state consortium to strengthen the research effort.
"Public policies related to major health and social concerns such as motor vehicle accidents, cancer, and tobacco have greatly benefited from in-depth research — and this legislation ensures the same approach with gun violence," Simon said.