As Richmond grieves Graduation Day shooting victims, leaders talk about gun violence solutions

Posted at 5:36 PM, Jun 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-12 17:37:45-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Candles, balloons, pictures of children's faces on memorial t-shirts. It's a scene city and school leaders say they see far too often in Richmond.

"Superintendent [Jason] Kamras, you and I looked at each other at a vigil earlier this year, and I think it was our 47th one for an RPS student," City Councilmember Stephanie Lynch said at a vigil Sunday honoring the victims of a mass shooting outside of the Altria Theatre June 6. "That is unacceptable. Unacceptable."

"I pray, with all my heart and all my soul, that this is the last vigil that I ever have to do," Richmond Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras said.

Richmond School Board Chair Stephanie Rizzi said she would do what she could to address gun violence among Richmond's youth.

"I pledge to work with RPS administration to do our part to end it, including prioritizing mental health support for our youth. I call on the entire community to join us," she said.

Richmnd City Council member Anne Frances Lambert also spoke at Sunday's vigil and took a firm stand against firearms.

"I'm all for banning any gun in the City of Richmond. Ban all assault weapons, AK47s, ban them all from the City of Richmond. And I'll do anything in my power to do that," Lambert said.

Acting Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards urged the community to remain peaceful while grieving.

"Revenge isn't the answer. If any of you are thinking about retaliating, please don't," Edwards said.

LaDesha Batten, an Immediate Response Team supervisor with ChildSavers, said several of the organization's clinicians are based in Richmond Public Schools to offer mental health services for students and families who have experienced trauma from gun violence.

"We have a short-term trauma response program, where we provide short-term therapy to kids specifically, who have experienced trauma within the past six months. And again, that goal is to try to help mitigate those early signs of PTSD," Batten said.

Batten said ChildSavers has an indirect role in trying to prevent violence among students as they cope with grief and loss.

"It's not good to try to navigate these types of things alone," Batten said. "So we need to understand the physical symptoms of trauma, the psychological symptoms of trauma, the emotional symptoms, kids need to understand what they're experiencing, especially in the case of grief and loss, because this was a loss for everyone, whether it was a direct loss, or indirect loss, and also just how to cope with that loss in a healthy way."

ChildSavers does have an Immediate Response Helpline at 804-305-2420. If a child is expressing suicidal ideations, ideas of self-harm or harming others, dial 988.

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