RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond’s leaders announced their next step to combat gun violence on the steps of City Hall on Thursday afternoon.
Mayor Levar Stoney was joined by City Council members, Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith, VCU Level One Trauma Center Medical Director Dr. Michel Aboutanos and other community representatives for the announcement.
“Gun violence is a public health crisis and to address this crisis. It’ll require a mobilization of people, programming, and investment,” Mayor Stoney said.
Stoney and more than half of City Council plan to introduce a resolution at their May 24 meeting, not only declaring gun violence a city crisis but promising to enact programs and seek state and federal dollars to respond to the emergency.
“We can and we must do something about gun violence in our city,” said City Council President Cynthia Newbille.
The administration admitted this violence spans generations while disproportionally impacting black and underserved communities.
"It is not a law enforcement issue; it is a community issue and put simply, it is an ‘our’ issue," said Chief Smith.
Mayor Stoney said expect programs targeted at teens and young adults to be unveiled in the coming weeks.
“Underinvested communities in Richmond are in survival mode - 24/7,” he stated.
The announcement follows a recent mass shooting on the city’s Southside that killed a mother and her baby.
Dr. Aboutanos told CBS 6 that violence has escalated tremendously during the COVID-19 pandemic as more gunshot victims arrive at his ER.
“We have seen not only an increase in violence but the type of violence. Instead of being shot a couple of times, multiple multiple times,” he explained.
In 2019, VCU Medical Center received about 300 admissions related to gun violence. Last year, that number increased by more than 50%, according to the doctor.
“Last year has been devastating for us,” Aboutanos said referring to the mental and physical toll that violence has on his team. “If you get shot or get injured and come to VCU within 15 minutes we have the entire team assembled. We drop everything and must respond in 15 minutes.”
The city’s Gun Violence Prevention Framework Workgroup (GVP Workgroup) is a key element of the city’s community-rooted effort, according to a press release.
“The GVP Workgroup is comprised of individuals and families from communities most impacted by gun violence, survivors of gun violence, families of loved ones lost to gun violence, and representatives from community-based organizations and grassroots entities working closely with impacted communities,” the release read. “The GVP Workgroup is currently working on recommendations to prevent gun violence, with an emphasis on enhanced opportunities for youth and young adults and empowering communities that have experienced high rates of violence and trauma to access networks or resources, support and healing.”