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Gun violence is the focus of Hillsborough virtual forum, public invited

The shooting death of 4-year-old Sunni Bell spurs call for action.
This image of a Sig Sauer 9 mm handgun. Local government officials are scheduled to gather Friday in a virtual forum to address gun violence. (Times | 2020)
This image of a Sig Sauer 9 mm handgun. Local government officials are scheduled to gather Friday in a virtual forum to address gun violence. (Times | 2020) [ Hillsborough State Attorney's Office ]
Published Sep. 14
Updated Sep. 14

Nineteen local elected officials are scheduled to gather Friday for a virtual forum focusing on preventing gun violence.

“We have to come together to look at what we can do to address this serious problem in our community. We have lost a 4-year-old to gun violence and a mother was killed by her young child who found a gun in the home,” said Hillsborough Commissioner Gwen Myers, referring to 4-year-old Sunni Bell who was shot and killed while riding in a car in Tampa on Sunday Aug. 22.

The forum follows on the heels of a renewed law enforcement focus on gun violence.

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister formed a team aimed at curbing gun violence, called Gunfire Response Investigations Team, or GRIT, in July. Non-fatal shootings in Hillsborough County jumped from 44 cases in 2019 to 72 in 2020. There have been 34 shootings through July 1.

“I don’t know if it has something to do with the pandemic, and we forgot how to socialize with other individuals, or conflict resolution. I don’t know if we’ve just become a more violent society,” Chronister said at the time.

Likewise, now-retired Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said in June that gun violence had ravaged East Tampa during the first half of 2021, with the area accounting for all of the city’s 21 homicides by gunfire and a majority of its 230 non-fatal shootings.

Related: Tampa Police chief pleads to stop gun violence in East Tampa

In August, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said the Tampa Police Department had confiscated more than 1,000 guns in 2021.

During the forum, elected officials and community representatives are scheduled to view a video recording of what Tampa Bay Technical High School students think will help prevent the tragedies caused by gun violence. St. Petersburg City Council member Deborah Figgs-Sanders also is scheduled to speak.

Myers is acting as host for the virtual forum scheduled for 9 to 11 a.m. Friday. The public can receive a link to view the forum by calling Myers’ office at 813-272-5720 by 5 p.m. Thursday.

The forum is coordinated by the county-funded Community and Law Enforcement Workshops and Services Program Inc. The Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa, Inc., the Hillsborough County School District, and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office also are sponsors.