Governor Northam’s Budget includes $2.85 million for programs that seek to reduce everyday gun violence
December 17, 2019 — Leading with a General Assembly seeking to address gun safety on Day One of the 2020 legislative session, Giffords, the gun safety organization led by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, applauded Virginia Governor Ralph Northam for releasing a budget today that includes $2.85 million in state funding to boost evidence-based community gun violence intervention strategies for the first time.
“Ending America’s gun violence epidemic requires addressing the everyday shootings that disproportionately impact underserved communities of color across the Commonwealth,” said Molly Voigt, state legislative manager at Giffords. “Community gun violence—much more common than mass shootings, yet largely underreported in the media—shatters thousands of lives each year and dramatically impacts the growth and economic opportunities of all Virginians. Governor Northam’s budget seeks to help remedy the brunt of this violence by providing resources for the implementation of proven intervention strategies in Virginia’s most impacted communities. With a General Assembly ready to change the course of gun safety in Virginia, we applaud the Governor for prioritizing innovative solutions and look forward to championing these investments through the legislature.”
The Governor’s proposed budget reflects a significant investment in addressing everyday violence at the state level through two different line items:
- $2.6 million to fund evidence-based gun violence intervention and prevention initiatives in five localities, including two new positions to oversee this work.
- $150,000 funding to five localities (Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond, and Petersburg), to conduct community assessments for youth and gang violence prevention initiatives.
Community gun violence in Virginia disproportionately impacts communities of color. For example, black men in the Commonwealth make up less than 10 percent of Virginia’s population, but account for nearly 61 percent of the state’s homicide victims. For too long, states have failed to invest in effective programs to address this violence and murder inequality. But recently, more states like Virginia are turning to intervention strategies to address the imbalance. Research and case studies have shown that through a combination of low-cost, community-oriented intervention programs and much-needed firearms policy reforms, gun violence rates in underserved communities can be dramatically reduced in as little as two years. These policy solutions include:
- Group violence intervention programs that identify the small population—sometimes just a few dozen people—responsible for the majority of gun violence in a neighborhood. Community leaders, in conjunction with police, offer opportunities to discourage group members from participating in shootings. Boston saw a 42% decrease in murders after implementing Group Violence Intervention programs.
- Cure violence intervention programs that treat gun violence like a communicable disease, this strategy employs “violence interrupters” trained to understand neighborhood dynamics and mediate potentially deadly conflicts. At the same time, outreach workers connect at-risk individuals to social services. Homicides fell 31% in Chicago neighborhoods using a similar model.
- Hospital-based intervention programs to connect recently injured patients with case managers who help them leave behind a violent lifestyle and avoid the retaliatory attacks that make up a significant share of community gun violence. Using this model, San Francisco General saw injury recidivism rates fall from 16% to just 4.5% for the six years following implementation, a $500,000 savings in annual medical expenses.
A report by Giffords Law Center, A Case Study in Hope: Lessons From Oakland’s Remarkable Reduction in Gun Violence, details 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.