Getting guns out of the wrong hands is the first step toward making any community safer. That's why today's gun buyback program by Tampa police is such a promising response to a spate of senseless killings.
Police Chief Jane Castor came up with the plan after holding a community meeting to discuss recent shootings in Ybor City and East Tampa. Five people, aged 16 to 53, have been shot and killed in Tampa since October. The motives varied — a robbery, a slight. But there was a common denominator: a gun in the wrong hands.
Thanks to the generosity of the Tampa Bay Lightning, which donated $12,500, organizers of today's buyback will pay $50 for each gun brought to Seminole Heights Baptist Church. Those selling may do so anonymously; police simply ask that the guns be unloaded. Officers will be on hand to safely take possession of any gun and a mobile team will even be available to those who cannot transport a weapon to the church. The program runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the church, at 801 E. Hillsborough Avenue.
Police in communities across America have taken thousands of guns off the streets through these buyback programs. This is a great way for family members to step forward to protect both their communities and their loved ones.
• • •
Residents of east Tampa and Seminole Heights have a serious problem with prostitution, and the city owes these residents a serious strategy to reclaim their neighborhoods. Instead, City Hall is offering political gimmicks.
The City Council, with Mayor Bob Buckhorn's support, gave tentative approval this month to an ordinance that would require drivers arrested for soliciting a prostitute to pay $500 to reclaim their vehicle. The fine would be on top of the $150 defendants already pay to cover towing and storage costs. Officials say the added penalty will discourage prostitution because men will think twice before risking the hefty fees.
That's a ridiculous analysis of the thought process of people cruising for prostitutes. The legal costs alone for defending oneself against a prostitution charge could reach thousands of dollars. If that's not enough to dampen the trade, what difference will another $500 make?
This plan creates an illusion the city is being proactive. There is no benefit to the neighborhood from the city charging another $500 when the whole point is to stop the solicitations in the first place. The residents are still losers. The men's families would be, too.
The council is expected to give the measure final approval on Thursday . Rather than wash their hands of this problem, council members should work with the mayor and give the police the resources they need to attack prostitution in a more comprehensive manner.