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Giffords Praises California Legislature for Bolstering Program to Address Urban Gun Violence in California

 CalVIP has funded grants for cities like Oakland, which cut its annual shootings and gun homicides by half 

 Legislature strengthens the program and includes $30 million in its budget, the largest investment in the program’s history 

June 13, 2019 Giffords , the gun violence prevention group led by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, commended the California legislature for bolstering the California Violence Intervention and Prevention (CalVIP) grant program, which provides competitive matching grants for cities and community-based organizations to implement effective programs designed to interrupt entrenched cycles of shootings and retaliation. In a push by Giffords and a broad coalition of allied organizations to bring CalVIP to more impacted communities, the legislature boosted funding to the largest investment in the state’s history. The budget now goes to Governor Gavin Newsom.

In addition to this funding increase, Giffords is also supporting AB 1603, sponsored by Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, which would authorize the CalVIP grant program by statute and strengthen the program by removing low caps on grant awards, requiring prioritization of grants from communities with the highest rate and number of shootings and homicides, and requiring prioritization of programs targeted at individuals at highest risk of being victims or perpetrators of violence. AB 1603 unanimously passed the California Assembly and is now moving to the Senate.

“California’s leaders have continued their bold record of leadership on gun safety by significantly expanding CalVIP’s ability to fund proven, lifesaving programs to break the cycle of violence,” said Ari Freilich, Staff Attorney and California Legislative Affairs Director at Giffords Law Center. “With limited funding, CalVIP has helped communities across California achieve transformative reductions in violence. Giffords’ top legislative priority in California is to expand CalVIP because this program is so effective at saving lives. We look forward to continuing to work with Governor Newsom and California’s legislative leaders to expand and replicate this lifesaving work for more communities”

In a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom, Senate President Toni Atkins, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, former Congresswoman Giffords highlighted the need for increased to fully fund the program, noting the remarkable successes CalVIP has had in reducing violence in places like Oakland, Stockton, and Richmond.

“The ‘Break The Cycle of Violence Act’ is a groundbreaking expansion of the California Violence Intervention and Prevention (CalVIP) and a firm commitment to reducing gun violence in our state,” said Assemblymember Buffy Wicks. “I am proud to work alongside Giffords to pass AB 1603 to strengthen California’s investments CalVIP’s gun violence prevention programs and make sure grants go towards communities most affected by the tragedy of gun violence. I am grateful to the members of the Assembly for their support and I call upon my colleagues in the Senate to vote in favor of this critical and life-saving program. As our Legislature finalizes this year’s budget, I urge members of both Senate and Assembly Budget committees to request the full funding of these life-saving programs with an annual allocation of $39 million for three years. Expansion of CalVIP will not only save lives– it will save taxpayer dollars by investing in proven, community programs, for dramatic reductions in violent crime.”

“California can and should do more to ensure that every family can live without fear of losing a loved one to gun violence,” former Congresswoman Giffords wrote in the letter. “We know how to solve this crisis. New York and Massachusetts have achieved remarkable reductions in shootings by investing in violence intervention programs. In California, cities like Oakland, Los Angeles, and Richmond have implemented some of the most effective community-based violence intervention initiatives in the nation.”

A recent report by Giffords Law Center, A Case Study in Hope: Lessons From Oakland’s Remarkable Reduction in Gun Violence, Oakland’s successful citywide gun violence reduction strategy. Since 2012, Oakland has cut its annual shootings and homicides nearly in half. By 2018, Oakland recorded its lowest number of homicides in almost two decades. This stands in direct contrast to many other major American cities that saw an increase in gun violence after 2012.

“As the former Program Director of the Oakland Ceasefire strategy, I am grateful and excited for cities throughout California to have the opportunity to apply through CalVIP for much needed resources to reduce gun violence,” said Reygan Cunningham, Senior Partner at the California Partnership for Safe Communities. “This opportunity opens the door for other cities to change lives of individuals and communities most impacted by violence, and to realize and sustain citywide reductions in shootings and homicides as Oakland has.”

To break these cycles of violence, California has invested $9 million in CalVIP annually, which funds community-driven violence intervention strategies that work with the highest-risk individuals to interrupt cycles of violence and retaliation.

In 2017, there were over 2,000 murders in the state of California, more than 70% of which were committed with a firearm. Violence in the state is concentrated geographically, with more than half of all homicides occurring in just 12 of California’s 460+ municipalities. Gun violence in California, as in many other states, also has a disparate impact on people of color. Black men ages 18–24 are over 18 times more likely than white men in the same age to be murdered with a gun in California.

Giffords Law Center has organized a broad coalition of organizations to create and advocate for the CalVIP program, but the program needs more funding. States that have had the most success in reducing violence in recent years, like New York and Massachusetts, spend four to twelve times as much as California does per capita on similar violence prevention programs. Those states’ rates of gun violence rates have fallen substantially in recent years, especially among younger and minority residents.