However, this pandemic has not only affected our daily routines but also has had a considerable impact on the local economy. In fact, the projected revenue lost in fiscal 2021 between pre-coronavirus estimates and current estimates is $774 million, according to the budget that D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) announced last Monday. And while we all recognize that Bowser had to make some hard decisions, the dramatic reductions to evidence-based violence-interruption programs are unconscionable.
As of Monday, when the mayor announced her fiscal 2021 budget, there had already been 54 homicides in the District this calendar year. This number is on par with 2019, which saw the most homicides out of any year in the past decade. Further, despite the stay-at-home orders issued across the country, rates of gun violence have shown few signs of slowing down. On the contrary, the first two weeks of April were the deadliest two weeks of the year so far. Tragically, the District has experienced multiple double and triple shootings in the past few weeks, many involving teenagers or young adults, with one ending in the death of a 17-year-old. This is unsurprising to the brave individuals on the front lines of the response to both the gun-violence and the coronavirus crises.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of speaking to one of these brave individuals, Cotey Wynn, from Cure the Streets. Wynn spoke about how the trauma and economic impacts associated with the pandemic are directly correlated with increased violence within the community. As the coronavirus crisis continues to unfold, we can expect gun violence to increase — unless we take specific measures to address this issue.
This is why gun violence prevention advocates, including me, from the D.C. chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America are extremely disappointed in Bower’s budget. It fails to make a substantial and long-term commitment to fund comprehensive gun-violence reduction strategies. In the mayor’s budget proposal, successful violence interruption and street outreach programs through the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement and Office of the Attorney General are set to receive substantial cuts in funding. The Roving Leaders Program, which provides specialized outreach services to students to mediate disputes and prevent violence, is also being substantially cut. And there was no mention to fund a boots-on-the-ground Safe Passage program that has been found to significantly reduce gun violence in Chicago. Furthermore, there was not a concentrated enough effort to increase support for community organizations that provide immediate and ongoing victim support services to help address widespread trauma nor enough investment in proactive outreach to address root causes of gun violence in an equitable and accessible manner.
The truth is that our city was facing a public health crisis long before the coronavirus pandemic broke out. The virus has only made things more difficult for D.C. residents. While I know that recovering from this situation will be a long, difficult and painful process, we can and should take steps to ensure that it is not deadly.
Now is not the time to abandon evidence-based gun-violence-prevention strategies that work. I hope that Bowser and the D.C. Council will step up, say enough is enough and commit to funding a vision zero for gun violence.