Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Hillsborough County Commisioners reject gun buyback proposal

Posted By on Wed, Jan 9, 2013 at 5:53 PM

Tampa officials held a gun buyback program in December of 2011
  • Tampa officials held a gun buyback program in December of 2011
In the wake of the latest gun slaughter in Newtown, Connecticut last month, Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner came up with the idea during the holidays of having the county replicate what has been done in numerous municipalities across the country, a gun buyback program to help get unwanted weapons off the streets.

But apparently that was a bridge too far for the socially conservative Board of County Commissioners, who dropped that idea completely during a discussion on the topic Wednesday morning. However they did support Beckner's other proposal to address gun violence. That plan will have county staff make recommendations for convening a task force to address how to prevent gun violence. That task force would consist of law enforcement officials, educators as well as mental health and medical professionals. The task force is scheduled to report back to the board on February 20.

In raising the issue with his colleagues, Beckner recounted how prevalent such buyback programs are in U.S. cities. In fact Tampa held such a program a year ago, while many cities have spontaneously supported them in the wake of the Newtown shootings, which left 26 people dead, most of them young school children.

The only commissioner who initially said he was all in to back Beckner's proposals was Mark Sharpe, who said that his disagreement on one issue with the politically powerful National Rifle Association (over armor piercing ammunition) back in a race for Congress in 1994 led to their opposition to him 16 years later in a local county commission primary, saying "They have long memories."

"This event has shaken this nation to its core," he continued, adding he wasn't sure if Beckner's proposals would solve the problem, "but I''m not going to sit here and do nothing."

Commissioner Les Miller, the only other Democrat on the board besides Beckner, said the buyback proposal was all about style and not about substance. Miller proposed gun control measures while back in the state legislature in the late 1990's, after his son barely survived a shooting while attending Florida A&M.

Commissioner Al Higginbotham said the issue wasn't about guns but mental illness.

"The message is, what do we need to treat? Your real problem here are the people with mental illness and can get a weapon," he said, adding that England is contemplating banning butcher knives (apparently it's British doctors who are calling for such a ban, not anyone in government).

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department has their own buyback program scheduled for February 2.

Later in the day, Beckner told CL that it's still possible that the task force the commission voted to support could still possibly bring back a recommendation that a coordinated buyback program between the county and the sheriff's department is appropriate.

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