See below for an excellent – passionate, powerful, timely, etc. – speech by Del. Cia Price, delivered earlier this afternoon, during which she said the following (transcript after the video):
“Mr. Speaker and members, today June 1st kicks off gun violence prevention month. And while some of you may expect me to talk about Buffalo, Laguna Woods, Uvalde or the 18 mass shootings that have happened in our nation since May 24th, that would give some of you an out to say, well let’s just focus on things that are happening in Virginia.
So let’s do that. Here in Virginia, there are too many families that know the pain of losing someone from gun violence. When so many localities are being rocked by guns and gun violence in all of its forms, it’s on us in this room to do our jobs. For years, we have been sounding the alarm that gun violence prevention must be funded with prevention, intervention, enforcement and re-entry. We sought to do that in the introduced budget and the Senate’s version in a comprehensive way. But the House version cut that funding by 82 percent. And even in this negotiated version, after lines were drawn in the sand from the other side, what we have in this conference report is a reduction of gun violence prevention funds by 53 percent and no overarching strategy all in the name of action.
And I know, Mr. Speaker, that every single dollar matters. And some of you will say $6.5 million is a lot. Well let me tell you about Newport News. There was a very successful program called the STEP program that we have in the summer that that is proven to reduce gun violence. One city for three months is a million dollars. That’s one city for three months. And we have $6.5 million in this budget for gun violence prevention. Even though as has been stated, the Commonwealth had historic funding available, far more than was expected when the budget was first introduced. This conference report cut crucial funding for gun violence prevention itself. And the funding in this budget overall, Mr. Speaker, is not balanced on violence prevention; it’s all on enforcement and services after a crime has been committed. It’s imbalanced. And the amount of prevention funding that is here is just enough to say we checked a box, but not enough to make any real change.
The uncomfortable truth is that this funding will be spun to look good on social media, but it doesn’t do enough to save actual lives and to transform the communities like mine that need us the most. The money is here to keep us quiet or distort the narrative, not make things better. And y’all know I wasn’t going to be quiet. We will continue to pay the cost in lives lost and in the funding we spend cleaning up after a murder has happened versus actually preventing it, which saves lives and is cheaper. We have had years of ‘tough-on-crime’ laws and lots of incarceration, but still the problem persists because those aren’t the ways to solve it, and it will continue until we invest in the strategies that actually prevent the crime.
So Mr. Speaker, I ask my colleagues, how many people have to die before we take this seriously? Or maybe for some of you, who has to die in order for us to take this seriously? My fear is that if we can’t be serious about gun violence prevention funding when we have a historic amount of money to spend, then when will we?
But this is too important to give up. So instead of putting my hope in the people that are obstacles to gun violence prevention that sit in this room and have the privilege to drive home to communities where you don’t have to hear the gunshots or attend the funerals, I will place my hope elsewhere. I put my hope in the families and residents who are demanding more from us. I put my hope in the pain that some have had to turn to determination from parents who have lost their children to gun violence. I put my hope in the advocates and activists who are doing the hard work of fighting the gun lobby to get the changes that Virginians deserve.
And I want them to know that we hear them, that we will not ignore their cry and we will continue to fight against the senseless violence, that we know mass incarceration is not the answer, and that we will push back on this race for mediocrity and checked boxes and actually give a damn about the lives. I am disappointed in the cuts to gun violence prevention in this budget. And again, I could not be quiet. Thank you Mr. Speaker.” [Applause]