Demonstrations, whether about Black Lives Matter, gun control, LGBTQ rights, or opposition to abortion, will be subject to tougher law enforcement under House Bill 1, heading to the Senate for a final vote before it could go to the governor for his signature. Credit: WikiMedia Commons
Gun violence has stricken communities in South Florida and social media has been linked to an uptick in many deadly shootings across the state, according to state Rep. Kevin Chambliss and other gun control activists.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, gun violence has significantly increased in Florida but Miami has been heavily impacted, Chambliss said Wednesday at a virtual roundtable discussion on community violence.
Chambliss, a Democrat representing part of Miami-Dade County, said social media has been the main culprit for triggering violence, especially among young people in poor neighborhoods and housing projects.
“We saw an uptick in violence. This is the new form of communication. We have to ask ourselves, ‘what are we going to do about it,’ ” he said.
Romania Dukes, founder of Mothers Fighting for Justice, knows firsthand how guns can lead to senseless murders. Her 18-year-old son, De’Michael Dukes, was killed by a stray bullet in an apartment complex in Miami-Dade, the Miami Herald reported.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement shows that the number of violent crimes across Florida has increased slightly, from 81,091 in 2019 to 82,941 in 2020. That’s an increase of 2.3 percent.
In terms of murders, the numbers went from 1,120 in 2019 to 1,285 murders in 2020. That’s an increase of 14.7 percent, according to data from January to December of 2020 form FLDE.
Overall, based on all data points, Florida’s crime rate has dropped by 15.7 percent from 2019 and 2020. However, the overall rate reflects a big drop in property crimes, 18.5 percent. The violent crime rate is up .4 percent compared to 2019.
During the Zoom discussion, Dukes spoke about witnessing violence that had stemmed from arguments between young people on social networks, such as Facebook and Instagram.
“The back-and-forth beef, the retaliation. You have kids that’s fighting among each other because they live in different zip codes,” she said. “Every day we are affected by gun violence.”
Chambliss and other advocates for gun reform at the virtual conference stressed the importance of having discussions to address community violence in hopes of introducing legislation to combat it in the upcoming legislative session.
In the past, the Florida Legislature has largely failed to pass stricter gun laws, with many Republicans in opposition.
“We know this is something that has plagued communities for decades. We need to make sure every community is safe,” Chambliss said.
Also on the panel, state Rep. Fentrice Driskell added that her district has seen an increase in shootings as well. Driskell, a Democrat representing part of Hillsborough County, said it’s important to involve residents to help find solutions surrounding violence.
“We are no stranger to gun violence as well,” she said. “Our communities are fed up. We are tired of this. We are tired of seeing innocent men and women die in the street.”
There has been a string of shootings in the Miami-Dade area since May 27, according to a report from the Miami Herald. One of the shootings happened in June, where “a disturbed gunman shot and killed his girlfriend and her son and wounded three others, before turning the weapon on himself,” according to the report.
Meanwhile, Chambliss said he plans to share the feedback from the community forum with Florida House members to find solutions to make neighborhoods and communities safer from gun crimes and other types of violence.
The next community discussion hosted by Chambliss will be held at a later date with law enforcement officers, he said. “Then we are going to take that information to nonprofits and law enforcement agencies…that input from there goes to the lawmakers,” Chambliss said.
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