Legislature unlikely to tackle gun violence

Guns and bullets. Photo courtesy Google Images.

Democratic lawmakers in South Florida are pushing for an Urban Core Gun Violence task force. Two bills aimed at reducing Florida’s gun violence issues are currently working through the Legislature, which will conclude its 2020 session in a little more than a week.

The proposal would create a 10 member task force that would investigate system failures and the causes of high crime rates within urban areas. Sen. Jason Pizzo (D- Miami-Dade) believes that with the increasing disproportionate deaths of minorities across the nation action needs to be taken.

“It’s the worst-kept secret in the Senate that the main reason why I am here is to protect the lives of Black and Brown,”Pizzosaid.

Pizzo, a former assistant state attorney in Miami, wants to use the task force to create new ideas to aid in reducing the homicide rates in areas like Tampa, Jacksonville and Miami.

In the past urban core communities have tried implementing curfews, keeping children in the house in order to avoid more fatal incidents. Miami-Dade police department has a curfew for children under 17 from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday through Friday. However, the violence has not ceased.

 Pizzo said, “A curfew is not the way to raise a child.”

The program cost is estimated at between $350,000 and $415,000. Pizzo believes that the program may actually cost less but also says the price is nothing compared to the lives it may save.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2018 report, there were 1,315 homicides in the state of Florida. Several lawmakers believe a large portion of these deaths occurred in South Florida.

The bill has a similar counterpart in the House being spearheaded by Rep. Shervin Jones (D- West Park).

The legislative measure differs slightly by indicating who would sit on the committee. Stipulating that at least two members appointed by each of the following:  the president of the Senate,  the minority leader of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, the House minority leader and the Governor.

Both measures follow in the footsteps of a prevention task force previously formed following the February 2018 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, which Jones sat on.

Jones reiterated that the purpose of this legislation is not to get rid of guns, saying, “We really need to there be substance behind what comes out of the task force. With a sunset on the task force just to look at it and bring those recommendations to the Legislature of those things that need to be changed.”

While similar task forces have been formed in other areas experiencing similar issue, the effectiveness of such task forces has not been proven. In Oakland, Calif., a similar task force was formed, which helped to prolong a record six-year reduction in crime. However, in 2019 the area experienced a seven percent increase in crime. This led to some questioning the effectiveness of the violence reduction strategies produced by the task force.

Jones’ measure appears as if it will not make it to the House floor. With less than two weeks left in the legislative session the bill still has to be heard by two more committees.

 Pizzo’s piece still needs to go through the SenateAppropriationCommittee, which does not have any more meetings schedule for the regular session. However, the Appropriation Committee can schedule a meeting between now and March 13 when the session is scheduled to end.