COLUMBIA, S.C. — Columbia Mayor Daniel Rickenmann wants to establish an office of gun violence prevention.
The measure was a main point of discussion during Tuesday's meeting of the Columbia City Council. Rickenmann says the purpose of the office would be to assess and improve factors and behaviors which lead to violent outcomes.
It would also help Columbia police establish stronger relationships in the community.
The cost estimate for the office for next three years if approved would be a little more than $800,000. It would be paid for with money from the American Rescue Plan Act money, which is federal funding for COVID relief given to cities.
"We're going to start out with some of our ARPA money which this can be used for to get jump-started," Rickenmann says. "We'll go in to using our grant-writing services to go after other funding sources. But as somebody said to me earlier, 'what price do you put on lives? I think funding is not our biggest issue right now. I think it's getting the office organized and actually active."
Columbia resident Thomas Goodwin spoke at Tuesday's council meeting in support of the new office. He was paralyzed as a teenager from a gunshot, and said if something like this had existed back then, the violence that led to his injury may never have happened.
"We act out, due to the fact that we don't know how to talk, so when we learn how to talk and communicate amongst one another, we're able to stop a lot of acting out," Goodwin said. "So that's what I came to them, just showing us another way of going about communicating, so that we're not lashing out on one another."
Serve & Connect, a non-profit working directly with law enforcement and the community to bring about positive change and stronger bonds between officers and citizens, released the following statement regarding the proposed office:
"We are optimistic to hear of the Mayor’s proposal to establish an Ofﬁce of Gun Violence Prevention. This type of leadership will help support the sustainability of efforts such as the activities that are funded in our federal grant. Addressing gun violence requires a comprehensive strategy that engages many partners. No one can do this work alone. We are proud to work alongside the many amazing organizations and individuals who live and serve in our city to advance toward a safer, brighter future for us all."
The plan got initial approval from the city council but still requires more votes before it is finalized.