Floridians, and their leaders, should shift focus to confronting deadly urban gun violence

State Rep. Shevrin Jones, of Broward County, wants a state commission to address deadly urban gun violence.
State Rep. Shevrin Jones, of Broward County, wants a state commission to address deadly urban gun violence. Miami Herald

In its Feb. 17 editorial, “A year after Parkland, the young keep dying by gun violence,” the Board lamented that following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy in which 17 people were killed, nationwide, “Another 1,100 young lives were snuffed out by bullets in the last 365 days.”

We asked: Whom do we talk to about that? And who is ready to take action?

State Rep. Shevrin Jones is ready. And he wants Gov. Ron DeSantis to join him. Neither the governor nor Jones’ legislative colleagues should hesitate to do so. Jones says he has found the DeSantis administration receptive to hearing more.

Jones, who represents the 101st District, which includes southeastern Broward County, is asking the governor to appoint a panel to examine how to prevent gun violence in urban, and especially African-American, communities in the state. Jones told the Editorial Board that the panel should be modeled upon the one created to after the school massacre in Parkland on Feb. 14, 2018.

Jones is on point. One takeaway from the Miami Herald’s report, “Since Parkland,” done in collaboration with McClatchy and The Trace, an online news organization that tracks firearms deaths, is that as horrific and attention-grabbing as mass shootings — and the high-power weapons used to carry them out — are, the incremental, unending and too often little-noted toll from handgun violence is staggering.

The report puts it in context: The number of gun deaths across the nation in the wake of Parkland was “a Parkland every five days, enough victims to fill three ultra-wide Boeing 777s.”

Though Jones has called for DeSantis to step up, the MSD Commission that examined all the lapses that allowed the massacre to happen, and proposed solutions, was part of a legislative package last year that addressed gun reform, mental health and other issues. So Jones’ legislative colleagues also can step up, and should.

According the the NAACP, at least 80 percent of gun deaths in African-American communities are homicides. It’s a chilling statistic that demands examination. Any panel should include a variety of experts in law, justice, healthcare, gun violence, etc. But it must also bring the people — the hurting family members, the gunshot survivors — to that table, too.

Jones said the issue is broader than stopping violence. Neighborhoods’ economic needs are a factor; as are jobs and trade-school training. “Give people options,” Jones told the Board. “They do not see opportunities to get out of crises.” Drugs and the gang violence that they spawn cannot be ignored. Neither can the actions, for good or for ill, of states attorney, police and the justice system.

“Throwing money at the problem won’t solve it. But we have an obligation to show the communities that we care,” Jones said. “The governor has a prime opportunity to show black and brown communities that he cares.”

Jones adds that he does not see this as an issue of blacks vs whites or of political partisanship. At least it shouldn’t be.

However, depending upon whether the governor, or lawmakers, come through with a gun-violence commission, it will speak volumes of whose lives they highly value and whose lives come in a distant second. And that’s the wrong message to send from a state leader who committed to being governor for all Floridians.