Richmond, Virginia is a cool little city with some very big problems, starting with the leadership at City Hall. As part of their progressive approach to combatting violent crime, the city council unanimously approved a plan this week to waste some $80,000 in stimulus funds on a gun “buyback”; part of a broader strategy focusing on “root causes” of crime instead of cracking down on violent offenders. As the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports, city leaders aren’t even attempting to hide their desire to get people to give up their right to keep and bear arms through their compensated confiscation event.
The decision to host another event comes as a part of the city’s ongoing attempt to curb gun violence and decrease the number of firearms in the community.“This legislation, and the related grant contract, seek to prevent gun violence by reducing the availability of guns, providing a safe means of getting rid of unwanted guns, and creating collaborations amongst Richmonders working to create a safer city,” the ordinance reads.
Donald Bryant has lived on the Southside, just off Richmond Highway, for more than 60 years. While he loves his community, he said there’s one concern that never goes away.
“Public safety is the main thing ‘round here, keeping people safe,” Bryant said. “I’ve been here some nights in my house and hear gunshots going all over the place.”
He tries to stay alert and on guard at all times by using security cameras to monitor his front and back yards, but he wants more help, specifically from the police.
Over the years, he said he’s noticed a rise in crime, yet a reduction in officers patrolling the area. He said there’s also less community policing.
“Try and get us more policemen on the ground. That’s what we want,” Bryant said. “Just once a while, have a policeman drive by, talk to one the neighbors, see what they’re doing, get to know the people in the community.”
Additionally, he said he’s unsatisfied with the amount of time it takes for police to respond to reported incidents.
And when he calls 911 to report an issue, he said he gets put on hold.
“I had called 911 a lot of times, and they don’t get here quick as they do. It takes a little while,” Bryant said. “If somebody’s on the ground, and you call 911, you can’t wait a couple of minutes or a minute.”
Residents on the other side of town said they’re facing similar problems. Paul Vaughn, who lives in Church Hill, said even if he does get through to a 911 dispatcher, it’s a gamble whether officers will show up.
“Usually, I’ll wait up to two minutes. If it takes any longer than two minutes, I just give up,” Vaughn said about calling 911. “I’ve become accustomed to trying to solve the problem myself first and then reach out to the police.”
After a year of planning, the city released its Gun Violence Prevention report — a 42-page document that outlines problem areas, root causes and ways to solve the issue. In it, the city discusses a two-fold plan: stricter public safety policing and pinpointing the main systemic causes.
The latter has become the top priority. For example, because of the higher reports of gunshots in the city’s poorer communities, the intention is to address the problems that lead to poverty instead of relying solely on policing.
I have no problem with community violence intervention programs, at least those that have a track record of success and oversight to ensure that money isn’t being wasted (as we’ve seen in cities like Philadelphia, but they’re no substitute for actually enforcing the law. Sadly, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney has rejected calls from community leaders like Richmonders Involved in Strengthening our Communities, which has been trying to bring the Operation Ceasefire program to the city for years. The strategy involves a carrot-and-stick approach to prolific offenders and those at risk of perpetrating or becoming the victim of violence; offering job training, help with GEDs, counseling, and other support services for those willing to stop shooting but directing cases to the U.S. Attorney if the targeted individuals choose to continue on with their life of crime.
Stoney’s stonewalled RISC despite the fact that the group was able to secure $300,000 in grants from the state last year, choosing instead to demonize lawful gun ownership and throw taxpayer dollars away on buying up old and busted firearms for a non-profit to turn into pieces of art. Last year the city spent $67,000 on a “buyback”, and this year they’ll be wasting even more taxpayer-provided funds to “decrease the number of firearms in the community” even though there’ll probably be more guns lawfully sold in the city the week of the “buyback” than firearms turned over to police. Will this make Richmond a safer place? Absolutely not, but will it ensure some positive press for Stoney and the city council? Almost certainly so. This is about public relations, not public safety, and it will be taxpayers footing the bill for the city’s latest anti-gun stunt.