Rep. Shevrin Jones, a West Park Democrat, is calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to set up a commission to study ways to prevent gun violence in minority communities across the state.
Jones says he envisions the panel to be modeled off the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission.
The MSD Commission was established following last year’s shooting at that school which killed 17 people. Its goal is to analyze the causes of that attack and outline ways to improve safety at Florida’s schools going forward.
The MSD Commission was created as part of legislation put forward in the wake of the shooting. Jones and others argue that something similar needs to happen to help curb the violence seen within some minority communities.
“The creation of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission fell short when it didn’t include leaders or input from minorities affected by gun deaths,” Jones said.
“It’s time for our state 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?”
Jones points to 2018 data from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) showing the high rates of violence within black communities in particular.
According to the NAACP, more than 80 percent of gun deaths among the black community are a result of homicides. That’s the inverse of the numbers for the general population, which show nearly two-thirds of gun deaths are the result of suicides.
In addition, the NAACP says that “49 percent of deaths of African-American males between ages 15 and 19 are homicides — more than the next nine leading causes of death combined. Their white counterparts die from homicides in less than 8 percent of deaths.”
Sybrina Fulton, whose son Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman back in 2012, also spoke out in favor of Jones’ proposal.
“Gun violence doesn’t just happen in our classrooms, it happens at malls, our movies, and especially in our black and brown communities,” Fulton said.
“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.”
Jones currently represents House District 101, but has filed to run for Senate District 35 in 2020, as his House term is set to expire.