Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Thursday that $156 million in grant money would be going to gun violence prevention programs across the state.
The grants, which were provided as part of the California Violence Intervention and Prevention Grant Program (CalVIP) and awarded by the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC), generally followed previous gun prevention programs in California that showed decreases in gun violence. Specifically, the $156 million came directly from $209 million in Break the Cycle of Violence Act funding that Governor Newsom had set aside as part of his $100 billion California Comeback Plan.
These similar programs have cut the gun death rate in half in the state and made mass shooting incidents less likely in California according to the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), while also having been severely challenged for infringing on people’s rights, such as the second amendment. Many have also challenged those statistics as they included figures from COVID-19 pandemic years, when gun violence was very low due to mandatory lockdowns.
According to a statement made by Governor Newsom, funding will go to programs across California including:
- The City of Fresno will offer a camp in the Sierra to young people most at risk of committing violence. It will also use a portion of its funding to open sports fields and recreation centers at night for tournaments and car shows.
- The City of Oakland will conduct outreach, coaching and counseling for families with children most at risk of committing violence to help all members learn to problem solve and communicate.
- The Anti-Recidivism Coalition will begin providing services to youth from Sacramento and Los Angeles while they are housed in juvenile facilities and provide intensive case management. They will also provide a warm handoff including housing, employment and trauma-informed services.
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County and the Inland Empire will provide youth with two years of mentorships with community-based volunteers, working with families to access support including education, mental health services and emotional support.
In total, 79 cities and non-profit organizations are to receive gun violence prevention funding.
“While gridlock and division block progress on the national stage, California is leading the way with commonsense gun safety laws and prevention programs like CalVIP that save lives,” said Governor Newsom in a statement on Thursday. “We’re doubling down on these successful measures – tested and proven in California every day – as part of an all-of-the-above approach to making our communities safer and ending the tragic cycle of violence playing out in schools, churches, workplaces and public spaces across the country.”
Cheers, jeers over release of funds
Many groups, such as the Giffords Law Center, praised the release of the grants on Thursday to help fight the latest wave of mass shootings, such as the Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas shootings.
“The CalVIP program funds the work of heroes – frontline violence interrupters who put themselves in harm’s way, protect and heal survivors, and stop shootings before they ever happen,” noted Giffords Law Center State Policy Director Ari Freilich. “Last year, Governor Newsom made historic new investments in CalVIP and thanks to his efforts, dozens of programs across the state will soon be able to expand their work to reach and heal more survivors, stop more retaliations, train the next generation of violence intervention professionals, and keep more families whole and safe and free from violence. Today, we celebrate California’s investment in this vital work, and thank Governor Newsom and leaders in the Legislature who fought to secure these historic investments in community safety that works.”
However, there has also been a significant amount of backlash. Concern over government misspending, possible constitutional rights infringements, and the high number of non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that will be receiving funding have been at the forefront, as well as a recent bipartisan push to put more funds towards mental health services for gun prevention, rather that at guns themselves or social programs.
“If you want to stop gun violence, we need to reevaluate what works and what doesn’t,” stressed Ben Johnston, a gun violence researcher of mass shootings and killings going back to the Bath School Disaster in 1927, to the Globe on Friday. “We can’t rely on studies that show policies that ‘worked’ even though they used the COVID lockdowns to help justify their results. Social programs may work, but they need to be looked at carefully, not just with money being thrown around like this. We really need a focus on mental health and some sort of system that can possibly find people wanting to do this early on. Probably sounds impossible now, but 50 years ago we thought that finding serial killers before they can strike again through psychology, linguistics, and criminal profiling, but it’s now a major cornerstone after so many successes.”
“These programs getting funding that say they are going after the most at-risk is a bit concerning because, while altruistic, a lot of these funds are going to NGOs, and sometimes they can be a money pit or simply push that funding elsewhere. Fundraising costs and administrative costs alone can eat up a ton of the funds. We need to better vouch for these programs if we are going to go with a more community oriented way. The thought behind the funds, to stop mass shootings and violence, is a good thing, but they should have gone in other directions for funding.”
The other $53 million of the $209 million earmarked by Governor Newsom in CalVIP grant money is currently not assigned. The BSCC is to look into awarding the remaining funds soon.