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Another Way

How one Virginia city reckons with gun violence

The past year was another that yielded grim statistics.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, more than 1,500 people 17 and younger were shot to death in 2021 — both in and outside of school settings across the United States. It seems likely that this year’s total will surpass 2021’s tally. More than 1,200 children have perished due to gun violence in 2022.

As recently as Sept. 12, Tynashia Humphrey, a 15-year-old Richmond Public Schools freshman, was shot and killed while walking to the store with friends. More broadly, firearm homicides in the state among people 18 and younger have increased each year since the pandemic began, according to the Virginia medical examiner’s office.

While various approaches to mitigating gun violence include increasing access to mental healthcare, among other strategies, several people who spoke to VPM News mentioned access to guns remaining an issue at the core of this discussion.

“What I think is more related than any of those things, is gun policy,” said Odis Johnson, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Safe a Healthy School. “There's really nothing that the school itself can do — or even the presence of those law enforcement officers in those schools. It's just totally unrelated to the amount of injury and deaths that [a] shooter can cause.”

Although gun violence abides by no municipal borders, our series “Another Way: How one Virginia city reckons with gun violence” largely focuses on Richmond, in part because of its concerted effort to address the crisis. During the past four months, VPM News reporters have spoken with city and school officials, support organizations, community members, and the family and friends of slain young people in Richmond.

All of them called for an end to the violence and hoped that as a community we can find another way forward.

—Elliott Robinson, news director