Richmond Community, Officials Discuss Gun Violence at Town Hall
*VPM News interns Brianna Scott and Alan Rodriguez Espinoza reported this story
Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School hosted a town hall on gun violence Wednesday. The event comes after 26 students were shot last school year, including 9-year-old Markiya Dickson, according to city officials.
For Richmond students, gun violence “has become normal.” Armstrong High School student Assata Hall, 16, said “stuff like this happens all the time, multiple times a year. Somebody’s always getting killed in the community. You expect to see on the news who got killed today.”
Hall said she cannot remember a time when gun violence was not normal.
RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras says it is horrible to hear students say gun violence has become “part of growing up in Richmond.” Kamras attended the funeral of 9-year-old Dickson earlier this year.
“I have a son the exact same age and I really can’t imagine what that would be like to lose him,” Kamras said. “And that any family has to go through that is heartbreaking to me and so anything we can do to stop that, we have a responsibility to do.”
Richmond government officials attended the town hall on Wednesday, including Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, who said finding a solution to the gun violence epidemic “cannot be politically convenient.”
Stoney said Richmond has experienced 43 homicides this year, 33 of which were due to gun violence. He said these shootings occur regularly, “just a mile away from us.”
The mayor was critical of a special session held by Virginia’s Republian-led General Assembly in July following a mass shooting in Virginia Beach. The special session lasted 90 minutes and did not yield any new legislation, which the mayor calls a “show of disrespect” for victims and their families.
“In November, I’m hoping for some action,” Stoney said. “But the fact that they scheduled this during the lame duck season of the General Assembly members just gives me an idea of what I can expect.”
While the mayor hopes for action, Michele Cox demands it. Cox is an RPS mother and a volunteer for Moms Demand Action, a national organization that advocates for common sense gun reform legislation. Cox’s daughter is a student at Albert Hill Middle School. She says two of her daughters’ classmates have been the victims of gun violence.
“Gun violence impacts everyone and I don’t think as a community we can just sit by and say only thoughts and prayers,” Cox said. “We need to actually take some action.”