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Sickened by mass shootings, Tampa council explores using city buying power to influence gun makers

TAMPA — Heartsick over this week's mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., the Tampa City Council on Thursday looked for a way to help create a less "out of control" gun culture in the United States.

"Assault weapons are intended to maim and kill," council member Yvonne Yolie Capin said. "We don't want this to be our new normal."

Under Florida law, cities are banned from passing any local gun regulations — a prohibition Mayor Bob Buckhorn complained about when he could not keep guns out of the safe zone around the 2012 Republican National Convention.

Still, council members did vote to explore taking part in a national initiative called "Do Not Stand Idly By."

The effort was created by a network of citizens' and religious groups and takes its name from a verse in the Old Testament book of Leviticus: "Do not stand idly by while your neighbor's blood is shed."

The group is trying to enlist the help of public agencies that buy an estimated 40 percent of the guns purchased in the United States (25 percent by the military and 15 percent by law enforcement).

The goal is to use that public purchasing power to encourage gun manufacturers to:

• Sell guns only through certified dealers who cooperate with law enforcement, keep thorough records, secure their inventory, train employees to detect "straw buyers" looking to resell guns illegally and offer safety and gun-storage training to customers.

• Use requests from law enforcement agencies seeking to trace guns used in crimes to help identify trafficking patterns and put pressure on "bad actor" retailers.

• Develop "smart guns" that use owner-recognition technology to limit their use to authorized users, to bring guns to market with bullet micro-stamping capabilities that help law enforcement and make guns less useful to criminals and to work on new safety features to minimize accidental shootings.

• Refrain from selling large-capacity magazines and marketing guns based on their lethality.

So far, the approach has been endorsed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and adopted by state or local governments in California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Ohio.

Tampa council members asked for a Jan. 21 report from city attorneys and police about the possibility of taking part in the effort.

"I hope that between now and Jan. 21 we will not see another one of these incidents," said council member Harry Cohen, who made the proposal. But he was "sickened" to say that is probably too much to expect.

Council endorses new traffic safety model

Pedestrians and drivers are going to make mistakes, but they should not have to die for them.

That's the thinking behind a model of transportation planning the council embraced in a separate vote on Thursday.

Council member Lisa Montelione proposed that the city adopt what's known as a "Vision Zero" model for transportation planning. The council voted to ask Buckhorn's administration to consolidate its existing efforts into a Vision Zero approach.

Started in Sweden and adopted in U.S. cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Seattle, Vision Zero is an approach that puts preventing traffic fatalities as the No. 1 priority in transportation planning. In any situation where a person might fail, its founders say, the road system should not.

Locally, the approach has been embraced by a new nonprofit, Walk Bike Tampa, which was formed this fall by Hannah Strom and transportation engineer Jackie Toledo.

Supporters say a Vision Zero approach to a road like Busch Boulevard, where a Chamberlain High School student on foot was killed in traffic in October, could include steps like lowering the speed limit, adding high-visibility crosswalks, putting in medians and banning left turns near the high school.

In other countries (Germany, France, Spain), states (Minnesota, Utah) and cities (San Jose, among others) where it has been adopted, Vision Zero has led to double-digit reductions in the number of traffic deaths and larger reductions than jurisdictions that have not adopted the model.

"We've changed our culture over time with different things and that's what Vision Zero is all about," retired Federal Highway Administration chief highway safety engineer Rudolph Umbs told the council. "It's a long-term process, but it's doable."

In other business, the council:

• Named seven applicants it plans to interview on Dec. 17 for four seats on Tampa's new Citizens Review Board for police. They are Rasheed Ali Aquil, Donna Stark, Shirley Pettaway-Green, Irene Guy, Anneliese Meier, Nestor Ortiz and Mary Dahmer. Buckhorn already has named five board members and two alternates for the panel, which is expected to begin meeting next year.

• Repealed Tampa's long-dormant juvenile curfew. The curfew was enacted in 1994, but has not been enforced since the Florida Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional in 2004. Police say the repeal will not affect their work. Still on the books is Tampa's "Ybor City Child Protection Ordinance," which requires anyone under 18 to leave the Ybor City entertainment district after 11 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

• Gave final approval for the development of 400 apartments or condominiums and a riverfront restaurant on the current site of the Tampa Tribune, Related Development LLC of Miami plans to build an eight-story building on the Tribune property at 202 S Parker St., just north of the W Brorein Street bridge. The project includes a five-story parking garage with 800 spaces.