The state budget, passed in both chambers, includes $2.6 million for community gun violence programs to reduce everyday shootings
March 13, 2020 — Giffords, the gun safety organization led by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, praised the Virginia General Assembly for appropriating the full $2.6 million proposed by Governor Northam in state funding to boost evidence-based community gun violence intervention strategies for the first time.
“One shooting reverberates across an entire neighborhood and city. When violence becomes a wave, it can be overwhelming for city leaders to deal with both the grief of the families and the costs to communities. But Virginia lawmakers understand that there are proven solutions,” said Molly Voigt, state legislative manager at Giffords. “By providing the means to implement lifesaving violence intervention strategies, lawmakers in Virginia are showing a true commitment to helping end the Commonwealth’s gun violence crisis. We applaud Governor Northam, Speaker Filler-Corn, and Secretary Moran for stepping up. We hope this year’s investment is just the beginning in a long term commitment to fighting Virginia’s, and America’s, gun violence epidemic.”
The final state 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 staff positions to oversee this work.
$150,000 in funding to five localities (Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond, and Petersburg), to conduct community assessments for youth and gang violence prevention initiatives.
“Fighting gun violence in the Commonwealth requires more than a one-step approach,” said House of Delegates Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn. “When voters sent a gun safety majority to Richmond, they expected us to do all we can to stop the devastating impact of gun violence, and appropriating funds to implement community gun violence strategies is just the start of stopping this violence. By getting at the root causes of many of these shootings, we can begin the healing process of Virginia’s most vulnerable communities and create a Virginia that is safe for everyone.”
In a recent letter to the editor in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Giffords Law Center Community Violence Initiative Director Mike McLively urged the general assembly to fully fund the $2.6 million allocation requested by Gov. Ralph Northam. After the state senate initially issued an amendment to cut the funding for violence intervention strategies to just $1 million, the final budget amount was reconciled to meet the $2.6 million initially requested.
“Community-based intervention programs alongside historic gun violence prevention bills are part of our holistic approach to address the scourge of everyday gun violence in the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran.
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 calls for identifying the small population—sometimes just a few dozen people—responsible for the majority of gun violence in a given neighborhood. Community leaders, in conjunction with police, then meet with and offer opportunities to group members to discourage them from participating in shootings. Boston saw a 42% decrease in murders after implementing Group Violence Intervention programs.
Street Outreach Work treats gun violence like a communicable disease, and 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 Violence Intervention Programs connect recently injured patients with long-term 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. In 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.