By George Copeland Jr., Richmond Free Press
Another attempt by community and city leaders to reach an agreement on gun violence solutions ended in disappointment Tuesday after representatives of two organizations met with Mayor Levar M. Stoney and Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards at City Hall.
More than 100 members of Richmonders Involved to Strengthen Our Communities (RISC) and the Richmond chapter of Virginia Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators (VCORE) assembled outside City Hall’s Marshall Street entrance for a prayer vigil Tuesday evening while waiting for news that the city would consider the use of a Group Violence Intervention plan to ensure a safer city.
The results of the meeting failed to satisfy either party, but both sides remain hopeful their approaches could bear fruit and a partnership could be possible.
“It may have been discouraging, but we’re not discouraged,” said the Rev. Don Coleman, RISC member and co-pastor of East End Fellowship. “We’re going to keep pushing.”
Rev. Coleman joined Pastor Amy Starr-Redwine of First Presbyterian Church and teachers and VCORE members Anne Forrester and Lisa Delao in the discussion, which was spurred by a letter they sent to city leaders in July.
The letter and meeting were prompted by the Huguenot graduation shooting in June that led to the murder of Huguenot graduate Shawn D. Jackson and his stepfather, Renzo Smith, and left a dozen people injured.
In a statement, Mayor Stoney said that while RISC, VCORE and city officials both agree on the need to stop gun violence in Richmond, there were conflict- ing ideas on the solutions, and they “did not directly align on the best approach.”
“One life lost to gun violence is one too many,” Mayor Stoney said. “As the Mayor of Richmond, I will always welcome collaboration and conversations from any group or individual on how we can work together to address gun violence in our community.
“It is my hope that we can continue this conversation and collaboration in the future.”
The meeting RISC had with Mayor Stoney was the first in several months due to their differing views on how best to tackle gun violence.
In 2020, RISC first suggested using a GVI framework to identify and address the root causes of gun violence. It later partnered with rehabilitation group REAL LIFE to bring GVI to Hopewell, in the form of Project Safe, Alive and Free. The project has resulted in an 80 percent drop in the number of shooting incidents in the city in June and July compared to a similar timeframe last year, according to the group.
Mayor Stoney has opted for a Gun Violence Prevention and Intervention Framework that mixes elements of GVI with other approaches and initiatives used throughout the country. It seeks to reduce flashpoints for gun violence with a particular focus on Richmond youths and young adults.
It was this plan that Rev. Coleman said city officials repeatedly referred to throughout their meeting, pointing to commonalities between the initiatives already in place and elements of GVI that RISC and VCORE emphasized.
And while Rev. Coleman and others were disappointed with how the meeting ended, he remains hopeful for collaboration.
“The challenge is, are we willing to find what will work?” Rev. Coleman asked.
View the original story here.