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State lawmakers remain divided on how to best address gun violence

This Wednesday, June 29, 2016, photo shows guns on display at a gun store.
Alan Diaz
This Wednesday, June 29, 2016, photo shows guns on display at a gun store.

Governor Youngkin is urging lawmakers back to the Capitol to finish work on Virginia’s two-year budget. One item still on their to-do list is deciding the most effective way to spend millions earmarked to help reduce gun violence.

Republicans and Democrats don’t agree on which state agency should oversee the funds.

At its heart, the disagreement is about whether the money primarily goes to community-based programs or primarily goes through law enforcement. Valerie Slater, Executive Director of Rise for Youth, thinks the dollars need to go directly to impacted communities - not to police.

“Because if you listen to communities they’re all saying, ‘we want autonomy over our own streets. If you give us the resources we will build the programs,’” Slater explains. 

Programs like one in Roanoke, where the city has used a grant to hire a youth and gang violence prevention coordinator plus two outreach workers. They’ve developed mentorship programs, workforce training, and trauma counseling. That grant, though, WILL run out.

Roanoke City Councilor Joe Cobb says that while the police could use more support he would like state lawmakers to allocate funds to efforts where the groundwork has already been laid.

“They should not underestimate the power of the community in working to reduce this violence," Cobb says. "And they should also recognize that the police can’t do it by themselves nor should they be asked to.”

In this year’s divided legislature, gun control measures were a non-starter.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Mallory Noe-Payne is a Radio IQ reporter based in Richmond.