The Letter to Senate Leadership, written by Senators Booker and Duckworth, Requests Funding for Community-Based Violence Intervention Programs in the Next COVID Relief Package
NEW YORK –– Today, Everytown for Gun Safety and its grassroots networks, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, released the following statements applauding 20 Senate Democrats, led by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), for sending a letter to Senate leadership calling for $250 million in community-based violence intervention program funding in the next COVID relief package. The funding would allow local governments in the areas hardest hit by gun violence to support and develop lifesaving, community-based programs to combat gun violence.
The letter, which is co-signed by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) comes at a crucial time: Gun sales are surging during the pandemic, and media reports suggest shootings have persisted in Chicago, Cincinnati, Louisville, and Philadelphia.
“At a time when hospital beds have never been more precious and gun violence is on the rise in many cities, the funding that Senators Booker, Duckworth, and their colleagues are demanding would save lives,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety.
“For decades, community-based programs and organizations have done the work that the federal government has failed to do: address gun violence that disproportionately affects Black and brown communities,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “These organizations are essential parts of their communities, and I applaud these senators for demanding the resources necessary to continue this critical work.”
“Community-based programs work to break continued cycles of violence in neighborhoods that experience daily gun violence by reaching those at the highest risk of shooting or being shot,” said Michael-Sean Spence, director of policy and implementation at Everytown. “We need to support them now more than ever, and I applaud these senators for requesting the funding these programs need to continue investing in youth services, connecting communities to social services, and mediating conflict before it escalates to violence.”
The letter, which can be read in full here, requests the following:
- “$100 million in designated Byrne-Justice Assistance Grant Program (Byrne-JAG) Funds. As the COVID-19 pandemic depletes local budgetary resources, emergency JAG funds are needed to sustain lifesaving community-based violence intervention programs in cities most impacted by gun-violence. These additional funds will enable cities to retain violence interrupters, who help keep the peace, and reduce the number of gun-related deaths and injuries that continue to burden the healthcare system during the pandemic.”
- “$150 million for a Community-Based Violence Intervention Fund. The fund would allow local governments in the areas hardest hit by gun violence to develop and replicate effective models for lifesaving violence intervention initiatives. Funds should be awarded in a manner consistent with the purposes of implementing initiatives, through strategies such as hospital-based violence intervention, evidence-based street outreach and partnerships with critical stakeholders – such as health and education providers, law enforcement, local businesses and community leaders.”
As local and state governments face looming budget cuts in order to fight COVID-19, sustained funding for local gun violence intervention groups is uncertain. In February, Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund and Cities United released a join report, A Fund for Healing: VOCA Grants for Violence Reduction, highlighting the millions of dollars of federal Victim of Crime Act (VOCA) funding available for state agencies to unlock to support local organizations responding to gun violence. It’s critical that community-based gun violence intervention and prevention programs continue to receive existing funding during and after the pandemic, especially as community health workers rise to the challenge of fighting both continued gun violence and COVID-19.
The increase in gun sales during the pandemic has led to increased risks of city gun violence, unintentional gun violence, domestic violence, and gun suicide. The intensity of support for gun safety measures has also surged, according to an Everytown poll.
Everytown has also launched a petition to tell Congress to secure our safety with gun safety provisions and funding for vital services to keep our communities safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.