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GUN SAFETY VICTORY: Governor Northam Signs Historic Investment in Community Violence Intervention Funding

    Newly signed budget includes $2.85 million for programs that seek to reduce everyday gun violence

    Washington, DC — While millions of Americans grapple with the coronavirus pandemic and economic fallout, the ongoing threat of everyday gun violence remains high. That’s why Giffords, the gun safety organization led by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, praised Virginia Governor Ralph Northam for approving a budget today that includes $2.85 million in state funding to boost evidence-based community gun violence intervention strategies for the first time.

    “Today is a win for families throughout the Commonwealth still dealing with everyday gun violence that shatters lives,” said former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, co-founder of Giffords. “Governor Northam’s budget includes the compassionate, effective solutions needed to protect vulnerable communities. Lawmakers stood up to the gun lobby and remained committed to the safety of all Virginians. The actions of the General Assembly and Gov. Northam in prioritizing these funds are a model for states across the nation.”

    The governor’s 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.

    A recent memo from Giffords Law Center highlights the dual crises facing cities across the country: the ongoing epidemic of gun violence entwined with the coronavirus pandemic, as both health crises tragically amplify the other’s harms.

    Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney recently joined 20 American mayors to send a letter to leadership in the Senate and House of Representatives calling for federal aid to cities battling community gun violence during the coronavirus pandemic. With state and local resources strained, many lifesaving community-based interventions struggle to stay afloat while their services remain in high demand.

    Community gun violence in Virginia disproportionately impacts communities of color. For example, black men in the Commonwealth make up 10 percent of Virginia’s population, but account for nearly 58 percent of the state’s gun 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, which have bipartisan support, 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, employing “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.