JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As President Joe Biden lays out a vision to tackle a spike in violence in numerous large cities around the country, he is also re-igniting two major political debates in the country — gun control and police funding.
As crime numbers rise in some cities, one city seeing a decrease in crime is Jacksonville.
But while the overall crime rate in 2020 was down 9.7% in Jacksonville, there were still 12 more murders and an additional 1,075 aggravated assaults last year than in 2019. That’s a 13% increase in murder and a 25% increase in assaults.
With 14.5 murders per 100,000 population, Duval County retained its dubious distinction as the murder capital of Florida in 2020, with many coming as a result of gun violence.
The City of Jacksonville and the State Attorney’s Office have instituted numerous programs to help cut down on violent crimes.
One is the Cure Violence program. It’s totally separate from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and relies on ex-offenders going into communities to work with at-risk residents to help cut down on crime.
The State Attorney’s Office has also instituted its own programs.
They include treatment courts for eligible defendants including veterans and people who deal with addiction. There’s also the Keys 2 Drive program that helps eliminate fees for ex-offenders to get their driver’s licenses back so they can get jobs. There’s also the juvenile civil citations program to give teens alternatives to arrest.
But Jacksonville is not immune to some of the national issues.
One issue involves illegal guns which Biden has spoken about.
The steps Biden is taking and announced Wednesday, are aimed at cracking down on gun dealers who break federal law and establishing strike forces in several cities to help stop weapons trafficking. He also is seeking more money for the agency that tracks the nation’s guns.
News4Jax spoke with Chryl Anderson who’s with the group Moms Demand Action. The group advocates for stricter gun control regulations.
Anderson brings up something called the “iron pipeline” which is a term for the trade and sale of illegal weapons.
“The highways and biways that are used in order to transport guns from one area to another, bypassing state regulations. In the places that do have them to using states that have lax gun laws to bring firearms into states that have them,” said Anderson.
Anything President Biden puts forward with respect to gun control is expected to get pushback from Republicans.
News4Jax spoke with Cord Byrd who’s a Florida State Representative and gun rights attorney.
He said many Americans are buying large amounts of guns for personal protection.
“8.4 million new gun owners. The majority of those were women and Black Americans. Law-abiding citizens, when they see the government unwilling to defend them they are going to find a way to defend themselves,” said Byrd.
John Rutherford, former Jacksonville sheriff and current U.S. representative, issued a statement to News4Jax following Biden’s remarks on Wednesday afternoon.
“While I’m encouraged to hear the president talk about increased reentry and community programs that are proven to reduce crime and recidivism, the president’s focus on guns and licensed dealers is misdirected,” Rutherford said. “There is no such thing as gun violence. There is only human violence. If we want to address the rise in violent crime, then we need to aggressively prosecute criminals, support our law enforcement, and protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans.”