Last night at Ben Davis Beach a candlelight vigil was held in support of victims of domestic violence. The Tampa Bay Chapter of the Million Mom March and the Florida Consumer Action Network organized the event. WMNF’s Kimberley Farley reports.

Although it was a windy night and difficult to keep any candles lit, the message of the vigil still shined through.

Coming at the end of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the organizers hoped the vigil would draw attention to the national issue which is also a local problem. It is estimated that 1 in 4 women in the Tampa Bay Area are victims of domestic violence.

Representatives from three shelters in the area, spoke not about the successes in the battle against domestic abuse, but instead spoke in honor of the women who have died or are on the run from abusive husbands and boyfriends. They also stressed that there is help out there for those in abusive situations and their children. (SB 4 …to say no more)

Terri was in an abusive situation for four years. She sought help from a friend of the family and is thankful she is alive. She describes why she attended the vigil. (SB 1, …here today). Her ex is currently in jail and is scheduled to be released in 2007.

Deneda almost didn’t survive her abusive relationship. (SB 2, …I passed out)

After leaving her for dead, Jim O’Neill took their son and went on a crime spree shooting a sawed off shotgun through occupied dwellings and carjacking two vehicles. (SB 3, …in the other) He is currently serving 2 twenty year sentences for both the crime spree and what he did to Daneda. (((He wasn’t charged with attempted murder, but aggravated battery with attempt to permanently disfigure.)))

The role of firearms in domestic violence was another focus last night. The organizers of the vigil are trying to get the St. Petersburg Times and the Tampa Tribune to stop selling guns in the classified section of their newspapers.

Phillip Compton, Program Organizer for the Florida Consumer Action Network. (SB 5, …without a background check)

Earlier this month, the Sarasota Herald Tribune stopped this practice when it discovered that Mark Williams, a convicted felon, bypassed the background check required to obtain a firearm from a licensed seller and bought a gun through the classifieds using it that day to murder his estranged wife Raquel Soliz-Williams.

Other papers in Florida that have changed their practice are The Bradenton Herald, The Star Banner in Ocala, and the Northwest Daily News in Ft. Walton Beach.

It is estimated that 40% of all guns sold in the USA are sold by unlicensed gun dealers and the organizers hope that closing the loophole the classifieds leave -open will help stem the tide of women murdered by their spouses or companions.

For WMNF News, I’m Kimberley Farley.

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