Rochester Mayor Malik Evans called on communities impacted by gun violence to move into action and not be paralyzed by despair.
Evans joined mayors across New York Tuesday in an event that kicked off Gun Violence Awareness month, a statewide campaign to raise awareness about the severe impact of gun violence in communities, while promoting conversation and action. The virtual conference was the first of its kind, city officials say.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown hosted the event, which also featured remarks from other mayors, including Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard of Mount Vernon, Mayor Kathy Sheehan of Albany, Mayor Wilfred Rosas of Dunkirk and Mayor Robert Restaino of Niagara Falls.
“Faith without work is dead. We just can’t pray; we also have to work at it. We’ll be able to shine a shining light to lift our hearts during these difficult times,” Evans said, pointing to the recent events in Buffalo and in Uvalde, Texas. “It’s exhausting and it’s a crying shame that today in America we continue to see gun violence across the spectrum.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 45,222 Americans died of gun-related injuries. A February Pew Research report, which analyzed that data, notes that the 19,384 gun murders that took place in 2020 were the most since at least 1968. The CDC recorded a peak—18,253—in 1993. The 2020 total represented a 34 percent increase from the year before, a 49 percent increase over five years and a 75 percent increase over 10 years, the report states.
Rochester has struggled with its own increase in homicides in the last two years. So far, the number of murders fall in line with 2021. With 81 murders, 2021 saw Rochester’s highest homicide count in two decades, according to the annual report from Rochester Institute of Technology’s Center for Public Safety Initiatives.
“When there’s a hurricane or a natural disaster, FEMA comes in and we have this…community approach where everybody comes in together to try to solve this natural disaster,” Evans said. “Gun violence should be no different, and every level of government, every organization needs to come together and try to do what we can stop this carnage that we continue to see in our country and in our city.”
The city has launched several efforts to combat violence, including the $5 million collaborative Rochester Peace Collective. The investments of the collective would support social-emotional health and be trauma-informed. Priority programming would include re-entry programs, job training and preparation, mediation and conflict resolution, youth development, mental health support, and the arts.
On June 3, Evans will join Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and representatives from Moms Demand Action and the ROC Against Gun Violence Coalition for a city/county proclamation and news conference on gun violence at City Hall. The city’s skyline will be lit orange June 3–5 to recognize National Gun Violence Awareness month.
“Mayors, we live it,” Evans said. “We don’t get to stand up and talk and preach about it. We got to go to these mothers and fathers and these brothers and sisters and these kids and comfort them while we’re seeing this. We don’t get to get into esoteric conversations.”
“The problems are right at the doorsteps of City Hall, and we need help. We can’t do this alone by ourselves.”
Ten bills were introduced in both the Assembly and Senate that would tighten New York’s gun laws, close loopholes and directly address the gaps in laws exposed by the shootings in Buffalo, Texas, and around the country, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office said Tuesday.