Thursday, April 4, 2013

Hillsborough late to weapons ban party

As usual, Hillsborough County Commission is late to the party.  This time, on "assault rifle" bans.
Hillsborough County commissioners had barely recovered from an hour-long debate late Wednesday afternoon over how to prevent violence when Commissioner Les Miller dropped a bombshell.
Love the "bombshell" imagery.   We have to stop this violence!
Miller, who nearly lost a son to gun violence in the late 1990s, rejected requests by other commissioners that he schedule a discussion on the issue for the next board meeting. His motion to have the county attorney research the county’s gun control powers was not on the agenda.
We are sympathetic to Miller and his son.  But we are a tad curious of the circumstances.  Was an "assault weapon" involved in the shooting in the 1990s in Tallahassee?

The arguments pro and con on the assault weapons are all over, and we're not going to take that on here.
Ban something!

We also question judgement of politicians who may be reacting emotionally to a personal event, rather than striving for policy that is good on its merits.  But we can't have it all.

Turns out, it appears that it was fellow Democrat Kevin Beckner who got a bit blindsided my Miller's maneuver.
It was Democratic Commissioner Kevin Beckner who was most resistant to voting for Miller’s motion. Minutes earlier, Beckner had weathered tough questions about his proposal to create a violence-prevention task force made up of professionals from various disciplines.
Beckner, like the other commissioners, was caught off-guard by Miller’s gun control motion. Such a proposal threatened to embroil his newly minted task force in a gun control debate.
Commissioner Sharpe was the lone skeptic.
Despite the hot-button nature of the issue and the potential backlash from some constituents, the Republican-dominated commission voted 6-1 to support Miller’s request. Commissioner Mark Sharpe, one of five Republicans on the board, voted no.
Sharpe said the proposal worried him because media attention would focus on a potential assault weapon ban when statistics show those types of rifles are used in only a small portion of overall gun crimes. Sharpe suggested some preliminary research be done on what type of gun violence is most prevalent in Hillsborough County and what kinds of constitutional issues would be raised by a ban.
“We’ll be fighting that battle when really that may not be where we should be focusing our energy,” Sharpe said.
That is actually true.

But here's another problem.
Several commissioners objected to the $150,000 Beckner wanted to fund the project, most of which would go to Prevention Institute, a California-based non-profit. The institute has helped other cities and counties develop successful violence prevention strategies, Beckner said. The rest of the money would go to a facilitator to guide the group’s deliberations.

Beckner was helped, however, by supportive testimony from law enforcement officials and a school board member. After 70 minutes of debate, the commission voted 7-0 to support funding the violence prevention group.
Let's spend another $150,000 on violence prevention.  And let's give it an out of state firm that does not pay taxes.  Couldn't have we engaged with a local organization on violence prevention   Say... the Hillsborough County Sheriff?

Who is the Prevention Institute?  Is this a sole source bid?  Are there not any other providers of violence prevention or gun safety education?

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