By Melissa Spellman
New Journal and Guide
The Virginia Center for Public Safety (VACPS) held their 32nd Annual Vigil and Advocacy Day to Prevent Gun Violence on Monday, January 15, 2024, at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Virginia. This event was held in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to honor the civil rights leader’s teachings and his memory. VACPS sponsored the annual trip to Richmond, VA for the YOURS organization Youth Outreach Urban Resources and Services Ministry to attend this vigil.
Other Hampton Roads based organizations that accompanied YOURS were 757 Breaking Barriers, Riddick Driven, Mothers and Fathers of Tidewater, Children of the Sun, and C.L.E.A.N. Citizens Learning and Educating About Neighborhoods. Their trip to the capital city afforded them an opportunity to talk to one another about issues facing the families and how they can work together to make positive change.
The vigil was held at Bell Tower. Following the vigil participants joined other Virginians as they assembled outside of the General Assembly Building to advocate for more sensible gun laws and to remember the lives of those killed by gun violence.
The groups had the chance to talk with Delegate Jackie Hope Glass of Norfolk’s 93rd District. Glass is a 39-year-old African-American woman who prior to redistricting represented the 89th District and was re-elected to represent the 93rd District in November of 2023. Her motto is, “I’m here for the people of Virginia, not the status quo.” Glass gave the organizations insight on how to get their concerns to the right audience.
Organizations like YOURS, Children of the Sun, C.L.E.A.N., and all those in attendance work diligently every day to provide activities, resources, mentoring, and programs to guide the youth and give them alternative options to criminality and gun violence.
According to a study titled Firearm Deaths of American Minors: Perceptions vs. Facts by VACPS Board Member Andrew Goddard, firearm violence is now the leading cause of death for Americans under the age 18. This study was published by the University of Richmond’s Public Interest Law Review.
Andrew Goddard’s research study delves into understanding the misconceptions about the realities of gun violence risk and its continued effects on legislative decisions. His study discusses various gun legislation that has been proposed, passed, and why it was or wasn’t passed. He also addresses areas where legislation could cause a reduction in the rate of deaths due to firearms and injury of minors, particularly concerning mass shootings and the ban of sale on assault rifles and high-powered weapons.
In Goddard’s study he suggests four approaches to safe schools that actually work which are focusing on social-emotional development; fostering strong relationships among students, parents, and teachers; utilizing school-based mental health providers; and employing restorative justice programs. These are the same efforts and approaches that many of the organizations in attendance practice within their community programming. There is still more work to be done, more children to be saved, and more public servants willing to make the hard choices concerning gun violence prevention legislation.
All mentions of the study were taken from the VACPS website.
To learn more about VACPS visit their website. You can read VACPS Board Member Andrew Goddard’s entire study at the Virginia Center for Public Safety website www.vacps.org.