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Victory for Maryland Community Violence Intervention Strategies as State House Overrides Veto of SB708

Giffords hails bipartisan legislation that will provide at least $6.6 million for Maryland’s Violence Intervention and Prevention Program and Baltimore’s Safe Streets Initiative 

Washington, DC Giffords, the gun safety organization led by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, praised the Maryland House for voting to override Governor Hogan’s veto of SB708, which provides $6.6 million in funding for community violence intervention programs. Last month, the Maryland Senate voted to override Governor Hogan’s veto of the bill.

Today’s victory builds on key support that began last year when lawmakers approved legislation to appropriate at least $3 million annually to fund Maryland’s Violence Intervention and Prevention Program (VIPP). On top of that, the legislation also provides $3.6 million in funding to Baltimore’s Safe Streets program. Representatives from Giffords spoke at committee hearings and provided written testimony in support of the legislation, and called out Governor Hogan’s veto of the bill last May. 

“Following the Maryland Senate’s bold leadership, the Maryland House made clear that meaningful action must be taken to reduce the everyday shootings hurting communities of color,”  said Tiffany Garner, Community Violence Initiative Outreach Manager at Giffords. “This funding will save lives by investing in evidence-based strategies that address the root cause of gun violence that have fueled a problem that leaves too many families heartbroken. We applaud the Maryland House for their courage in voting to override the governor’s veto on these lifesaving funds and thank Delegate Brooke Lierman for being the leader Maryland needs to continue making progress on this vitally important issue. We also applaud the Maryland Violence Prevention Coalition for their tireless advocacy efforts to push for legislation that will support community programs serving those who are disproportionately impacted by high rates of violence.”

States like Maryland are turning to intervention strategiesto break the cycle of violence. Research and case studies have shown that through a combination of focused, 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 violence intervention strategies include:

  • Group Violence Intervention programs that identify the small segment of the population—sometimes just a few dozen people—responsible for the majority of gun violence in a neighborhood. Community leaders, in conjunction with police, 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 employ “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.

HB 822/SB 708, sponsored by Delegate Brooke Lierman and Senator Jill Carter, passed the Maryland legislature by wide margins in a strongly bipartisan vote last year and was vetoed by the governor in May. The legislation, drafted with assistance from Giffords experts, requires the governor to annually appropriate at least $3 million and as much as $10 million to Maryland VIPP, which supports local governments and nonprofit organizations that serve areas disproportionately affected by violence and populations identified as having the highest risk of perpetrating or being victimized by violence in the near future. 

The legislation also makes important substantive improvements to the program by requiring outside evaluations of supported strategies and allocating a percentage of funds to help with oversight and administration by the Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention.

With shootings spiking this year in many areas of the country, Giffords Law Center recently released a report on the decades-long failure of federal programs to reduce gun violence in America’s cities. As the next administration arrives in the White House, “America at a Crossroads” details a new path forward, focused on investing in the evidence-based community violence intervention strategies that President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris championed on the campaign trail.

The recent publication on federal policy followed a report by Giffords Law Center, A Case Study in Hope: Lessons From Oakland’s Remarkable Reduction in Gun Violence, detailing Oakland’s successful citywide gun violence reduction strategy.