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Florida Chamber launches new institute on school, workplace safety

“I think we can save lives,” the Chamber’s president said.

The Institute for a Safer Florida, organized by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, will “focus its energy and expertise on enhancing school and workplace safety.”

But it won’t talk about guns.

“I think we can get 90 percent of the way down the road” without addressing the gun issue, Chamber President Mark Wilson told reporters after a Wednesday press conference.

The institute’s creation comes a little more than a year after 17 died, mostly students, in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Broward County, and nearly three years after a gunman killed 49 people at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub.

The group’s intent is to complement – not compete with – the work of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission, created by the Legislature last year to “specifically analyze information from the school shooting and other mass violence incidents in the state and address recommendations and system improvements.”

“I think we can save lives and go a long way to making sure” events like the Parkland tragedy “never happen again,” Wilson said. “We need to have a serious discussion about mental health policies; we can have a serious discussion about school safety, workplace safety.”

Asked whether leaving guns out of the institute’s purview was a “political” decision, he said, “We never had a conversation about consensus on guns. The consensus that we had was that there’s a lot of people on both sides of the argument. And they’re forever going to have that conversation.

“Our consensus … was that a lot of progress can be made when you look at mental health, when you look at best practices” in schools, workplaces, and law enforcement. “… Let somebody else worry about what should happen with guns.

“Guns are a very important conversation,” Wilson added. “Guns are used in a lot of workplace violence, and in a lot of school violence, no question about that. This effort is about what can be done about the people, the policies and the practices to prevent the violence in the first place.”

The institute’s goal “is to help Florida evolve from a state that has witnessed school and workplace violence that has claimed dozens of lives, to a state that has among the safest schools and places of employment in the nation,” a press release said.

During the press conference, held at Tallahassee’s Florida Press Center, Wilson was surrounded by schools, workplace and law enforcement representatives, including Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter, president of the Florida Sheriffs Association.

“When we talk about ‘community policing,’ this is going to be community policing on steroids,” he said of the group’s aim.

For more information, including a mission statement, visit the institute’s website.

Periscope videos of the news conference and of Wilson’s remarks can be viewed below:

Written By

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Dan McAuliffe, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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