Press Release

Giffords Applauds House Legislation to Fund Community Violence Intervention Programs During Pandemic

To be brought for a vote today, the HEROES Act delivers on requests made by 20 mayors across the country in letter to congressional leadership

Washington, D.C.Giffords, the gun safety organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, applauded the inclusion of flexible funding for states, cities, and nonprofit organizations to combat community gun violence in the HEROES Act, as introduced this week by House Democrats. The bill is to be voted on by the House of Representatives today and follows a letter Giffords organized from mayors across the country demanding help for violence interrupters and programs.

Robin Lloyd, Giffords Managing Director:

“The pandemic has left America’s cities reeling as they confront a pandemic and a gun violence crisis that never slowed down. For many mayors, violence interrupters and street outreach workers have been critical to providing hope and aid to those in dangerous situations. These workers are stepping up, stopping arguments from turning into shootings while fighting the spread of COVID-19. We are glad the House of Representatives is on the verge of recognizing the need to get additional resources to these heroes and we urge Majority Leader McConnell to follow their lead and pass this funding.”

Read the letter signed by 20 mayors here.

Last week, 20 mayors from major American cities sent a letter to House and Senate leadership calling for federal aid to cities battling community gun violence during the coronavirus pandemic. Despite social distancing policies and stay-at-home orders in place in states across the country, gun violence has remained persistently high in cities, disproportionately impacting black and brown communities who are also among the most vulnerable to COVID-19. With state and local resources strained, many lifesaving community-based interventions struggle to stay afloat while their services remain in high demand.

Mayor Ras Baraka, Mayor of Newark, New Jersey:

“Like so many across this country, in Newark we have quickly learned that while this pandemic may eclipse the news cycle, it does not make existing problems go away. Gun violence continues to ravage too many families in our communities. We know what it will take to solve this epidemic: resources, manpower, community engagement and innovative thinking. Just this year, New Jersey made historic investments in violence intervention programs we know will reduce this violence– and we cannot let these investments run dry. The funding provided in the HEROES Act will help keep our work alive and keep our communities safe.”

House Democrats responded by providing over $900 billion in funding for states, cities, tribal governments, and territories that can be used to fund these critical services; additionally, the legislation broadens eligibility requirements for funding through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to allow community-based organizations with affiliations with larger nonprofit “fiscal sponsors” to access financial lifelines.

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.

Community gun violence disproportionately impacts communities of color. For example, black men constitute just 6% of the US population and account for more than 50% of all gun homicides each year. For too long, states have failed to invest in effective programs to address this violence and murder inequality. But recently, more states and localities 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.

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 and why these programs are more important than ever. 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.