Gun violence prevention summit leads to fresh hopes for change

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — After a string of high-profile shootings in the Orlando region, political and community leaders put their heads together Monday for a day of discussions and planning.


The gun violence prevention summit was hosted by State Attorney Monique Worrell and sought to break the various groups out of their silos, where each component doesn’t know what the others are working on.

“A lot of people [are] saying who could do something better, who could do something differently and whose responsibility is to do that,” Worrell said. “Today is an opportunity for all of those individuals to come together, have a seat at the table and talk about how we can work collaboratively.”

Behind closed doors, groups of law enforcement leaders discussed problems and solutions, as did politicians and community activists.

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They also had a chance to hear from leaders of other cities where gun violence strategies have been implemented – and worked.

One speaker, from Richmond, said the groups responsible for many of the shootings – gangs – needed to have a seat at the table and buy into the plan.

Another advised a civilian infrastructure needed to accompany the police, who currently have to handle everything. They said it may take up to 15 years for a turnaround to be complete, warning effective solutions take time.

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A third said programs needed to be adequately staffed.

“I think the answer has to be we have to come up with some safety measures that are realistic, and then we have to come up with services that provide good wraparound for people who are the most vulnerable,” Orange County Commissioner Nicole Wilson said.

During a recent interview, a teenage ex-gang member said obtaining a gun in Orlando was like getting a soda, a statement Wilson called “terrifying.”

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Orlando Commissioner Regina Hill, who has long advocated for gun violence prevention, said the next challenge would be funding the ideas generated from the summit.

However, she said the day-long session was worth her time.

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