Richmond Mayor calling on Virginia to use state budget for gun violence prevention

As a budget stalemate continues at the state capitol, some are now saying the lengthy delay could cost lives.
Published: Jul. 26, 2023 at 6:58 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) -As the state budget stalemate continues, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney is now saying the lengthy delay could cost lives as he calls for more funding to prevent gun violence.

Wednesday afternoon, he requested $30 million for gun violence prevention programs for the city and the Commonwealth.

“We need more support. We can only do but so much,” Stoney said.

The mayor held a press conference that brought together Virginia advocacy groups and senate democrats. Collectively, they’re calling for a budget emphasizing curbing gun violence in the Commonwealth.

Stoney says that would come from passing legislation and funding programs already showing results. The money he’s asking for would go towards programs like trauma healing, hospital-based violence intervention, community outreach and more.

“We’ve been able to invest millions of dollars into our gun violence prevention intervention framework, which I think is working,” Stoney said. “This year alone, we’ve seen a 22% decrease in non-fatal shootings in the city of Richmond. That doesn’t happen, just, you know, overnight. It takes investment and the right people around the table.”

While it may seem like a lot of money, Stoney says it is actually that they cannot afford to not make the investment. Democratic state senators say Virginia has the money to do so.

“The time is now to get it done. Government in the Commonwealth, I don’t think we’ll have another opportunity. We will never have these resources again,” 9th District Senator Lamont Bagby said.

Speakers at Wednesday’s event all emphasized communities can’t be tough on crime without addressing the root causes.

But at the state capitol, the stalemate continues over what to do with a more than $5 billion surplus. Governor Glenn Youngkin and House Republicans want tax cuts, while Senate Democrats resist that idea.

NBC12 contacted the Governor’s office to comment on the mayor and other democrat’s gun violence prevention push. Governor Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter responded:

“We’re pleased the Democrats are highlighting the need to fund violence intervention programs that the Governor has already dedicated resources and implemented initiatives to bolster. The Governor proposed a balanced budget totaling $3.6 billion in investments for education, law enforcement, behavioral health and providing tax relief for Virginians. With $5.1 billion in excess resources, Virginia can fund critical priorities and cut taxes now. Democrats need to stop holding press conferences and come to the table.”

The Commonwealth is still waiting to hear when budget negotiations will start again.