Commission declares gun violence crisis
Published on February 02, 2023
Gainesville City Commission declares gun violence crisis, reaffirms need for outreach
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (Feb. 2, 2023) ‒ The City of Gainesville is sending a message to youth and families across the community: Gun violence is a public health issue. Led by Mayor Pro Tem, District I Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker, the Gainesville City Commission today approved a motion to declare a gun violence crisis and to chart pathways forward. This would include asking the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners to partner in this effort. The methods would rely heavily on community involvement, public safety research, improving access to opportunity and housing, and fine-tuning or developing programs aimed at preventing and stemming gun crimes. Collecting data to chart the success of local efforts online would be the final piece of the proposal.
Commissioner Duncan-Walker based the motion on research from other municipalities, studying their successful approaches in efforts to reach young people.
“Because this problem is so old, and so huge, things that worked before, they found they worked for a short amount of time and then the problem just resurges,” said Duncan-Walker.
She revealed plans to engage in conversations with young people, including those who are previously justice-involved. The hope is to gain a better understanding of the experiences that have the strongest impact and greatest potential to empower communities.
This led to a robust discussion in which all commissioners participated. Members of Moms Demand Action were present in the City Hall auditorium in a show of force to raise visibility and lend support, and two survivors of gun violence shared their stories at the lectern. Suggestions made included scheduling a series of town halls, and establishing new programs designed to strengthen relationships within the city’s underserved communities.
In approving today’s motion, the commission reaffirmed its commitment to finding solutions to gun violence. Some support is already in place. In Jan. 2022, commissioners dedicated two percent of Gainesville’s American Rescue Plan Act funds ($648,172) to address this problem through the arts, and the City was awarded a place with eight other U.S. communities in the first-ever, national One Nation One Project (ONOP) initiative. ONOP GNV is a groundbreaking initiative to curb gun violence, particularly in underserved communities, through wellness, intervention and exposure to the arts. The project is ongoing, with events coordinated through the City’s Parks, Recreation & Cultural Arts Department (PRCA).
Commissioner Duncan-Walker also was the strongest advocate behind last year’s push for a proposed $3 million cultural arts center in east Gainesville. She has been acutely aware of the need for positive and creative outlets for students in underserved neighborhoods. The proposal, which was approved by the city commission, is currently moving through a feasibility assessment.
In addition, Gainesville Police Department’s One Community Initiative employs a variety of strategies to reach young people, and the City’s Juvenile Justice and Community Support Programs Department has staff working with youth in area neighborhoods. This includes the well-known efforts of Reichert House, along with partnerships with law enforcement in other jurisdictions to develop a regional gun violence strategy focused on prevention, intervention and suppression.
Special Advisor to the City Manager Chief Tony Jones, who directs Gainesville’s Juvenile Justice and Community Support Services, cites the problem and solution succinctly.
“The Center for Disease Control states that 49,000 people in America died in 2021 from gun violence. That’s more than 100 sons and daughters, family members and loved ones every 24 hours. We cannot and will not accept this as a norm for our city, state or nation. Let’s do something about it,” said Jones.
For more information, contact City of Gainesville Public Information Officer Rossana Passaniti at 352-318-9599 or PassanitiR1@GainesvilleFL.gov.