BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Shooting deaths in Erie County over the last 15 months are up 200 percent, including last week the death of a 3-year-old child.
"We've been crying," said Pastor James Giles, Buffalo Peacemakers founder. "We didn't just start crying. We cried out when the baby got shot. We cried out to everybody. We said that stuff's not supposed to happen."
Four Western New York state lawmakers allocated $219,000 in funding to organizations on the front lines — $154,000 for Buffalo Peacemakers and $65,000 to the Stop the Violence Coalition.
"What we've seen already is way too much, but their work has protected some of that and so we need that work to be continued," Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said.
Giles said his group and others spend time directly in the community, hoping to connect with youth to prevent crime before it happens. He said while the money is limited, they will spread it out in order to get even more people on the ground.
"Integrate within the community so that the community now trusts them," Giles said. "They trust the presence over there and now they'll spill up. They trust the presence over there and now they'll spill up. They'll tell us where things is. They'll tell them what's going on over there so that we can come in an interrupt that type of violence going on in that community."
Lawmakers said the funding, which was earmarked in the budget, is only one part of a holistic effort to curb gun violence. Last week, the governor declared a public health state of emergency and seven-point plan that includes millions more in the pipeline, although it's not clear yet how it will be distributed across the state.
"There's nothing unique to Buffalo's circumstance that's making this happen here as the rates are going up everywhere in America, but we also have to know there is not one solitary answer to solving gun violence and all violence in our community," state Sen. Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo, said.
One of those solutions, they said, is a new law signed by the governor aimed at holding gun manufacturers responsible for crimes in which the perpetrator used an illegal gun from another state.
"I think when people understand what's available to them, then perhaps they will want to [bring a lawsuit] because it didn't have to happen," Peoples-Stokes said. "If those weapons were gotten through a legal process, it wouldn't have happened so that illegal process needs to be challenged and that's what this legislation does."
That law is effective now and legislators said families in Buffalo or elsewhere that recently lost a loved one may be among the first to utilize it.