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Courts / Law

Hillsborough County moves forward with suggestions on how to decrease community gun violence

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Safe and Sound Hillsborough
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As of Dec. 3, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has recovered 1,218 firearms.

Safe and Sound Hillsborough is taking the lead on a government effort to address gun violence that was started in October.

The group was founded in 2013 to address community violence. It is now facilitating that discussion at Gun Violence Town Halls hosted by Hillsborough County Commissioner Gwen Myers.

At the most recent town hall Friday, there was an emphasis on coming up with solutions that the group could move forward on with a $200,000 investment from the Board of County Commissioners.

Much of the discussion revolved around educating young kids about the dangers of gun violence. Suggestions included adding more comprehensive education about the dangers of gun violence in schools.

Those who attended the meeting also wanted to see gun violence education in after-school programs, including in recreational sports that take place through Parks and Recreation.

“We have to move as early as possible and work with those who are most at risk,” said Safe and Sound Executive Director Freddy Barton. “We are seeing that something significant has to happen in the minds and hearts and lives of our youth.”

Myers said she’s already begun discussions with Hillsborough County School Superintendent Addison Davis and Parks and Recreation Director Rick Valdez on integrating gun violence education into their programs.

She also said solving this issue will require cooperation between community groups, law enforcement, and even individuals who don’t feel compelled to speak up.

“This community, we don't want to say anything. We don't want to talk about it,” said Myers. “But how can we help the police, the sheriff, make an arrest when we want to remain silent?”

Barton said the suggestions made at the meeting aren’t far out of sight.

“None of the things that we've talked about should take a long time. These are some quick things that we can get done and accomplish, especially to raise awareness and get the right partners to the table,” said Barton.

Safe and Sound will use the notes from Friday’s meeting to come up with an action plan and continue the town halls moving forward.

“We'll definitely get (the action plan) back out to everyone in short order, and make sure that you know what we're going to be working on within the next few weeks to really launch this up,” said Barton.

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