As hundreds of gun-control advocates swarmed the state Capitol in Tallahassee to lobby lawmakers Wednesday, a South Florida Democratic House member called on Governor Ron DeSantis to form a commission to address gun violence prevention in minority communities.
“The creation of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission fell short when it didn’t include leaders or input from minorities affected by gun deaths,” said West Park Democratic Rep. Shevrin Jones in a statement. “It’s time to address the elephant in the room: gun-related deaths continue to plague our minority communities at higher rates and we need to address it head on. If not now, when?”
Gun violence disproportionately affects communities of color in the U.S., particularly the black community. African-Americans between the ages of 15 and 29 are 18 times more likely to be the victim of a gun murder than their white peers, according to a 2018 report from the Center for American Progress.
“Gun violence doesn’t just happen in our classrooms, it happens at our malls, our movies, and especially in our black and brown communities,” said Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old black youth who was killed nearly seven years ago in what was widely perceived to be a case of racial profiling.
Over 80 percent of African-Americans killed by guns are homicides, and about 34 percent of African-American males who die between the ages of 15 and 19 are killed by a gun, according to another 2018 report from the NAACP,
“If we want to achieve comprehensive gun safety legislation, that means including the voices of our families and neighbors who can’t escape this epidemic,” Fulton said in a statement. .
Rep. Jones hails from Broward County in South Florida, where gun violence is a daily reality. According to a report from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 1,284 children and teenagers were murdered by guns in Florida from 2006-2016, with 43 percent of those deaths taking place in either Broward, Palm Beach or Miami-Dade counties.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission was created last year in the wake of the February 14 shooting massacre in Parkland Florida which killed 17 people. The commission released its final report at the beginning of this year. Among the panel’s most controversial recommendations to the Legislature: Arming school personnel, including teachers. The panel said it’s not enough to have one or two police officers or armed guards on campus.