JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After the U.S. Senate moved one step closer to passing what would be the first new gun control legislation in nearly 30 years, News4JAX asked the five candidates for Jacksonville sheriff how they feel about the bill and if they think it would affect gun violence in Jacksonville.
Fourteen Republicans joined every Democrat in advancing the new measure in its first vote Tuesday evening.
The bill may not have everything President Joe Biden was calling for after the deadly mass shooting last month at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, but gun rights advocates are still calling the package a win and saying that more legislation will follow.
The gun safety package called the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act would expand background checks for gun buyers between ages 18 and 21.
The bill would encourage states to allow the FBI to have access to sealed juvenile records as part of the agency’s federal background check system for those young potential buyers.
The bill would also expand the law that bans domestic abusers from owning a gun. It would include -- not just abusive spouses -- but people in serious, intimate relationships. It’s commonly called the “boyfriend loophole.”
It would also incentive states to create “red flag” laws. That’s when the court can temporarily confiscate firearms from anyone who is deemed a danger to themselves or others.
The bill would also allow those who have been restricted from buying a gun to have that right restored if their record is clean for five years.
Those are the big parts of the bill, but it would also provide funding for telehealth programs, school safety and training, and community-based mental health projects.
There’s a lot of optimism, given how the bill came together: the result of negotiations between 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats after the recent deadly mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde. It looks like the bill will pass the Senate. That could happen by the end of the week. House Republicans did say Wednesday that they will formally oppose the bill, but there is enough other support in the House that it will likely still pass.
News4JAX on Wednesday asked the four Democrats and one Republican running for Jacksonville sheriff what they think about the provisions in the bill and how the measure might impact Duval County. We heard back from most of them, and a majority are in support of the bill:
Wayne Clark, Democrat
“From what I have heard, the bill on the surface seems to address some of the urgently needed steps to improve safety in communities by eliminating loopholes for those not legally eligible to acquire firearms. I have not had a chance to personally read the bill to fully understand the changes, and how those changes might impact local law enforcement. As sheriff, I fully intend to do everything necessary to keep all of Jacksonville safe from illegal gun violence and take all necessary steps to enforce all applicable laws,” Clark, a former Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office chief and former Duval County School Police Department assistant chief, said in a statement.
Dr. Tony Cummings, Democrat
“I am delighted that our elected officials in Washington D.C. are finally listening to the people’s concerns about the need for commonsense gun control legislation. Unfortunately, it took the deaths of so many innocent fellow Americans to wake the Senate up to the need for meaningful, bipartisan, framework on this long-overdue legislative issue. This is the type of bipartisan cooperation that we (i.e., Americans) need from our elected officials to bring us all together as a nation. I intend to take this same bipartisan approach with our local city leaders to reform the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office once I am elected sheriff,” Cummings. a former JSO officer and Army veteran, said in a statement.
Ken Jefferson, Democrat
Jefferson, a former longtime JSO officer, spoke with News4JAX during an interview.
“I’m a proponent of gun rights. I’m a gun owner. I have a collection of guns. I’m not the person that wants to take guns away from anybody who has guns legally. With that being said, I thought that the legislation was decent enough as a starter kit. I’m not particularly in agreement with the age requirement that they’re saying extensive background checks for persons 18 years of age,” he said. “You have to make [gun access] for responsible owners. An 18-year-old, in my opinion, is not a responsible gun owner no matter what type of gun they have. So I would like to see that amended.”
Lakesha Burton, Democrat
Burton, a former JSO assistant chief, released this statement: “This is an important milestone in what can happen when we work together. I congratulate the Senate for a good start to working on the issue of public safety. I remain hopeful for what more can come out of these efforts.”
T.K. Waters, Republican
News4JAX has called and left a message for Waters, the chief of investigations for JSO who said he plans to retire from the agency in the coming weeks.