Tampa leaders seek community’s help in curbing gun violence

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Rep. Kathy Castor calls for common sense gun laws after a string of gun-related incidents occurred in Tampa. Photo from Rep. Kathy Castor's Facebook page for WMNF News (2024).

On Monday, a New Tampa man was gunned down and another was found dead from a gunshot wound in Tampa. 

On Tuesday, a woman was shot and killed in her apartment hallway in St. Petersburg. 

These are just some of the recent shootings U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor pointed to in the past few weeks that have occurred in the Tampa Bay region.

Castor said there have been 320 gun-based homicides in Florida since April 30.  

“This, it’s really kind of gross, it’s outrageous that in America today, one of the leading causes of death among kids is death by gun,” she said at a press conference in Tampa on Thursday.

She added that the tragic circumstances of young people getting their hands on guns are because too many are being stolen out of vehicles.

Tampa Deputy Police Chief Calvin Johnson echoed Castor’s sentiments. 

Johnson said one of the first steps to combatting gun violence is for people to make sure if their firearm is stored inside a car, it’s locked inside the glove compartment. 

“Over a two-year period, we’ve had over 400 shootings here in Tampa and parts of Hillsborough County, fatal and non-fatal,” he said. “We’ve also had over 125 young people under the age of 17 that have been arrested on some type of gun or weapon-related charges.”

“We know that we have a lot of great work that’s being done, but there’s so much more work to do,” Johnson added.

He said the department is working with non-profits to mentor youth and their families to keep guns off the street.  

Project Locked and Unloaded offers free gunlocks to gun owners and can be picked up at any district office or police headquarters.

Safe & Sound is a Hillsborough-based collective of state and county leaders and the NAACP that aims to improve the conditions of neighborhoods affected by violence, cultivate community connections, and offer family and mental health support.

In addition, a summertime program for adolescents is offered through the city called Stay and Play. It provides teens ages 13 to 19 with safe and supervised environments to help keep them out of trouble. Johnson said the program is open until midnight.

“We understand from the law enforcement perspective, we cannot arrest our way out of this problem that is plaguing our society,” Johnson said. 

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