Hillsborough County Commission wants task force on gun violence but balks at idea of gun buy-back -- for now

01/09/13 Seán Kinane
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Wednesday the Hillsborough County Commission put aside a suggestion to organize gun buy-back programs to reduce crime. But the idea may come back as soon as next month among the suggestions for a task force to reduce gun violence. Commissioner Kevin Beckner recommended forming a task force – it was unanimously approved by the board.

"To direct staff to make recommendations for convening a task force under the County Administrator's office. They consist of at least law enforcement agencies, mental health and medical health professionals, educators and other partners to propose prevention and intervention services that focus on gun violence in Hillsborough County. Staff will report back to the BOCC on February 20th, to provide us with a proposed format and structure for the task force and to solicit additional feedback from the..( )"

Beckner withdrew his other motion – for the Commission to directly ask staff to report on the possibility of a gun buy-back program when it appeared it would get voted down. Commissioner Mark Sharpe supports the gun buy-back but said his experience in the Navy allows him to recognize a sinking ship.

"Perhaps, I'm just offering this to you, you allow the committee to make the reccomendations which it might very well, and which I would encourage the committee to, come back with a recommendation which would include a coordinated effort with police and sheriff for a buy-back which would involve the private citizens. I think there's a way towards success. There is a way towards success without having a...starting off with a loss. I don't think that would be good for you or for what we're trying to do."

Sharpe is a Republican, but he supports the gun buy-back efforts suggested by his Democratic colleague because of the tragic mass shooting last month at a Connecticut elementary school.

"I also consider myself a post Sandy Hook politician because that event I think has shaken this nation to it's core. We all carry with us the burden of that event. The fact that innocent children who had absolutely no say whatsoever, young children 6 and 7 faced that type of violence. I think we all, every one of us carry the burden regardless of whether we're an NRA owner or someone who's an anti-gun advocate for the parents because we share in the grieving."

Several commissioners, like Les Miller, said they were worried a gun buy-back program would not reduce gun violence. Miller’s son was badly injured in a mass shooting at Florida A & M University. When he was in the Florida Legislature he filed two gun control measures, and Miller was hounded by NRA lobbyists.

"Both these pieces of legislation went absolutely no where in the state of Florida but I continue to be one of the ones that fought to try to do away with the automatic assault weapons in the state of Florida and how we could change the loophole in the buying of handguns at handgun shows. To say all that, the gentleman that shot my son was asked in court why did he have his gun with him he said that he never left home without it. Never left home without his handgun. Now, the question is if we had a buy-back program would he have turned his gun in? I think not."

Another concern is cost. During public comment, five members of the community, including conservative activist Terry Kemple, opposed the gun buy-back program.

"I don't think that we should be spending money on a gun buy-back. It's proven that it really hasn't worked in other places where it's been tried."

But one member of the public, Gerald White, supported a gun buy-back program.

"We need to do everything that we can to protect the citizens, to protect the young people in our community. It's been successful in the City of Tampa and I'm sure it'll be overwhelmingly successful in the county."

Even though his gun buy-back idea has been put on hold until county staff brings back its recommendations, Commissioner Kevin Beckner thinks the issue of gun violence needs to be addressed.

"Gun violence is an epidemic that is responsible for claiming an average of over 30,000 lives every year. This is more than 85 deaths each day and more than 3 deaths each hour. For each person who dies from a gun shot wound two others are wounded. Every year in the United States approximately 100,000 Americans are victims of gun violence."

Staff will report back to the County Commission during a meeting on February 20.

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Are you aware that this is a huge distraction for the people, cities, and the States. Stay focused people Washington has other things to accomplish that are far more important than gun control right now. They are distracting you from the real issues!!!