A Mother’s Day gift

5/5/2022, 6 p.m.
Each year at this time, all good children — no matter their age — pause and figure out the perfect ...

Each year at this time, all good children — no matter their age — pause and figure out the perfect gift to give mom.

It can be anything from a bouquet of flowers and a lavish brunch to something as simple as a drawing or a heart-felt note handwritten on a card or piece of paper.

But this Mother’s Day, let us as a community give Richmond mothers the greatest gift possible — and that is to stop the gun violence.

Each day, news arrives from the Richmond Police Department that another person has been shot and killed, or has been transported to a local hospital with life-threatening or non-life-threatening injuries after being wounded by gunfire.

Last year in Richmond alone, there were 101 slayings, the highest number since 2004. Most involved guns. Richmond Police classified 90 of those killings as homicides.

So far this year, there have been 18 homicides in the city, 16 by firearms. Another 64 people have been shot.

But these police statistics don’t tell the full story of mothers left grieving and heartbroken over the loss of a son or daughter. At any age, a parent should not have to bury their child — or grandchild — or pray that the skills and caring of the doctors and nurses at VCU Medical Center can help their child pull through.

The trauma of each violent episode in this city extends well beyond the victim, impacting mothers and families for a lifetime. No mother should have to hear that her son or daughter is gone.

We applaud the efforts of so many individuals and organizations who are working to change this dangerous and destructive path some of our residents are traveling. Mayor Levar M. Stoney, the City Council and School Board, Virginia Commonwealth University, VCU Health and numerous people and organizations, including RISC, Richmonders Involved to Strengthen Our Communities, are stepping up to help identify and address the causes of the violence and why guns and killing are viewed as a response.

We are grateful that new federal and city funds are being applied to the problem, but we know that dollars alone are not the answer. Sense — street sense — also is needed. That’s why we back the use of “violence interrupters,” or people with street cred who are known and are a part of a community, to step in and help break the cycle of violence.

We have major concerns, however, that putting these violence interrupters under the aegis of the Police Department may hamper their effectiveness from the start. While training by the police and other agencies will be crucial to their success, we believe they should be seen by the community as independent and not an arm of law enforcement.

We urge Mayor Stoney and members of City Council to look at the many studies that document the effectiveness of similar programs in Baltimore, Oakland, Calif., and New Haven, Conn., to name a few. There is no need for Richmond to reinvent the wheel. Other cities are farther along in their broad community focus on gun violence prevention, and we, as a city, can learn from their experiences, which have been both positive and negative. Three violence interrupters with Baltimore’s Safe Streets program were shot to death within 13 months, the last being earlier this year. So this is a program Richmond needs to enter into without blinders and with as much knowledge as possible.

Every December, Linda S. Jordan and the Coalition Against Violence, which she founded, hold a somber memorial to ho- micide victims and their family members. While it comforts families, it also brings tears.

Ms. Jordan buried her teenage son in 1990. He was only 19 when he was murdered.

The loss is hard for mothers to bear. We hear their anguish at the community vigils and balloon releases led almost weekly by Charles D. Willis and United Communities Against Crime. But mothers need more than vigils and candles and stuffed animals. They want an end to the violence.

We hope Richmonders will dedicate this Mother’s Day to all the mothers who have lost sons and daughters to gun violence and join together to end it.