Gainesville City Commission declares gun violence public health crisis

City Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker explains her proposal to declare a gun violence public health crisis


GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gainesville City Commission voted to declare gun violence a public health crisis in the City of Gainesville at today’s regular meeting.

The agenda item was proposed by Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker, who said, “Preventing gun violence takes more than police.” She read from a Brookings Institute article that said, “homicide is one of the leading causes of death for Black males… We are beginning to see the targeting of social factors within high-crime communities become integrated into cities’ public safety initiatives more and more. Mayors in Houston and New York City have implemented police reforms that fund more focused policing alternatives aimed at mental health and other social programming.”

Duncan-Walker added, “Our approach to gun violence is going to require all hands on deck.” She said she is “interested in reaching out to those young people who are not necessarily in school, those who are most susceptible to the lifestyle that we’re trying to prevent, because I believe this voyage, combined with conversations, combined with programs and intensive work with them, can begin in that prevention and intervention strategy that we’re all so concerned about.” She said she plans on holding “a series of conversations” in the coming weeks.

Commissioner Bryan Eastman asked GPD Chief Lonnie Scott for his thoughts on the proposed bill in the Florida legislature that would allow people who meet specific requirements to carry a concealed firearm without a permit. Scott replied, “With the increase in gun violence that we’ve seen recently, I don’t think the solution is putting more guns on the street, quite frankly. I think having permitless carry is going to cause me a little more concern because my officers are going to encounter more people who are armed, and we don’t know what their intents are, and that’s going to be a dangerous situation.”

Mayor Harvey Ward said the problem is national, and Gainesville can’t solve it alone, “but we have to shine a light on it and do the things that we can and that we are able to do together to minimize it in our city and support people who are victims of that violence.”

During public comment, Debbie Martinez suggested increasing vocational training on high school campuses instead of making students go to Santa Fe College. A representative from Moms Demand Action recommended educating people about safe storage, extending transportation to rural areas so people can travel to jobs, and better services for gun violence victims. Another speaker said that declaring gun violence to be a public health emergency is “evidence-based” and that it’s important to listen to young people. Speakers also requested activities for young people, and Evelyn Mickle recommended Town Hall meetings. Robert Mounts asked the commission to oppose permitless carry and asked them to again prohibit open containers on the public right-of-way.

Commissioner Ed Book said he managed the Reichert House in the past, and he asked Tony Jones to talk about it. Jones, a former police chief who is currently Special Advisor to the City Manager and is directing Gainesville’s Juvenile Justice and Community Support Services, said one of the goals of the Reichert House is to “transform these individuals to be taxpayers instead of tax takers. Many in this population, if they’re tax takers, they’re incarcerated, and so they’re gonna cost society. So that’s what we try to instill in them.”

Commissioner Casey Willits said, “Housing is upstream of so much” and added that young people have little hope of buying a house in Gainesville. 

Duncan-Walker made a motion to declare gun violence a public health crisis in the City of Gainesville and draft a resolution to that effect; authorize the mayor to draft a letter to the county commission asking them to declare gun violence as a crisis in Alachua County, draft a resolution to that effect, and partner with the City to prevent and stem gun violence; and begin to lay the foundation for convening a gun violence task force and ask staff to bring back ways to expand or tailor programs the City already has to specifically address gun violence.

She said she also wanted to expand the new Public Safety Committee to include a gun violence subcommittee, but she didn’t know whether that should be part of the motion.

She also asked the commission to ask staff to come up with ideas regarding what a website with information on gun violence would look like “because I don’t think we can begin this work without being very transparent and being very clear about what we’re doing.” She asked staff to “bring back what that would look like” and how it could be added to the existing City website.

Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut immediately seconded the motion. Ward said the Public Safety Committee already has the authority to create a Gun Violence Subcommittee.

The motion passed unanimously. 

According to a press release from the City, “The methods would rely heavily on community involvement, public safety research, improving access to opportunity and housing, and fine-tuning or developing programs aimed at preventing and stemming gun crimes. Collecting data to chart the success of local efforts online would be the final piece of the proposal.”

The city commission previously allocated 2% of Gainesville’s American Rescue Plan Act funds ($648,172) to participate in the One Nation One Project initiative and also agreed to spend $3 million on a Cultural Arts Center in east Gainesville. The proposal is currently moving through a feasibility assessment. 

  • The only things that works in stop crime are 1 more law enforcement on the street that are allowed to do their job without the city council sticking their nose in trying to regulate it 2 blm get involved with the black youth spend so of their millions truly helping get them in school and off the streets 3 law abiding citizens carrying gun and not be afraid to use them don’t be a victim all this crap that the democrats push such as reforms low bail don’t work

  • You want to de-ball the police, and then you don’t understand when crime keeps getting worse and worse? We need more police helicopters, more K-9 units, more jail capacity, etc. Having no open container law just contributes to the general feeling of lawlessness. DO SOMETHING to seriously beef up law enforcement instead of talking for the 5000th time about educating criminals, which is foolishness. Yes, the community needs real jobs in a big way – that’s the other half of the solution.

    • No one called for, nor was the Gainesville Police Department, ever “defunded” per your ignorant statement.

      • The helicopter program was scrapped and police dogs are no longer a thing right now. Same for the mounted patrol units. We need to INCREASE police funding dramatically. Maybe hire a chief out of Miami where they know how to have law and order. You look like a bozo “misquoting” me, by the way.

      • No one ever called for defunding the police? Hmm, well then let’s just say they don’t hire replacements when the good LEOs leave and the vacancy is not filled!

      • Lauren Poe, Harvey and the other commissioners defunded (removed) 50 unfilled officer positions in 2020. At least do some real research before showing your ignorance. That was most certainly defunding the police, in keeping with the Democrat mantra. Democrat run cities nation wide are still paying the price, just like Gainesville.

  • Not sure if anybody down at city hall is aware of all the programs, feasibility studies and blah blah blah, that are currently “in progress” and have been for at least a decade in Gainesville. One of the major obstacles is that we don’t seriously, by professional standards, track what works and what doesn’t. Doing “anything” Ms Saco is not the same as doing what has been proven to work and defunding what doesn’t. Transparency is not a realty in Gainesville and it is a buzz word that has lost its buzz entirely.This issue is an emergency as lives are being lost. What took you so long to see it? And now you have “staff” come back with solutions? Same as it ever was… we need real leadership and we just don’t have it.

  • Keep cutting the police off at the knees and now you want these perceived problems fixed?? Time to get out the magic 8 ball, it doesn’t need double the salary to make a decision. Maybe the city can turn to all of the mental health and homeless resources for suggestions. Perhaps conduct a “safety walk” through Duval or Lincoln Estates looking at shell casings instead of e scooters in mid town.

  • According to TV-20 here, the city only increased in violent crime by 1/2 of 1%. What is the actual number. BTW, city commissioners, if you want to reduce gun violence, you’d best start supporting, paying and restoring the K-9 unit to GPD. You also have more than 90 positions to fill in the department. They are way more important than the useless Chief Climate Officer and her new department.

    • The murderer who shoots everybody in the head is free to keep going, possibly because Duncan-Walker got all emotional and started rhapsodizing like a woke college professor about dogs being used to catch runaway slaves, etc. The dogs are being used to catch criminals now, and there haven’t been any slaves since before her great-grandparents were born. She should be worried about protecting her constituents from criminals instead of grandstanding when people are dying every week. Saco and her three departed comrades are responsible for no police helicopter flying around over downtown every night, as there used to be before all of this extra violence started. There’s no rational reason not to bring back the helicopters ASAP.

  • Another smoke screen to make taxpayers think the Mayor and CC are deserving of their 90% raise they just gave themselves, and the circumventing of equal opportunity/merit promotion best practices by waving their wands and hiring their cronies as permanent director level managers! Too much work to do things right!

    The same answer for all their emergencies: “Let’s do a study and get on TV and hold conversations with actual and potential criminals; rather than take action to get them off the streets permanently! I’m pretty sure most Law Enforcement Officers can tell the intent of the majority of people they come across. I bet the safe ones are those that stop their vehicle and pull over when required to do so………and instead of running through the bushes, they pull out license and registration!

    They really think the people they are supposed to be serving and protecting are buying this crap!

  • Hey Desmon & Co, guess what: like the ol’ saying goes- IT ALL STARTS AT HOME!! So unfortunately the vast majority of criminals are already screwed & just NOT gonna change. Try implementing alllll the programs (smoke-screens) you want. We can see right through it!
    So quit handicapping the Police and let them be ‘The Police’ again if you actually want Gainesville to improve.
    Tony Jones’ statement about Reichert House made me about spit my drink out laughing, too…

  • Ed Book appears to be only Commissioner with a solid solution.

    Bring back vocational education to the schools.

    Give these young gang wannabes an alternative way to make money versus dealing drugs.
    They’re not worried about affordable housing. Yet!

  • The WHO can determine that anything can be a global health crisis….climate, homelessness, world hunger, etc. as outlined by the WEF and the “great reset”. The GNV city commission has been infiltrated with their ideology. Are they on the WHO & UN
    Payroll? Where are they getting these marching orders from? Didn’t they take a loyalty oath of office to uphold the State of Florida & US constitutions? Their continued circumventing of State Law can be construed as racketeering. They should be fined and barred from seeking re-election by Governor Desantis. Climate is a health emergency is why they appointed that climate Czar position and paying that Chinese lady $85,000/year at taxpayer expense. Our local government has been infiltrated with these globalists that want to take our inalienable rights away. When are they going to declare a “drug and vagrancy health crisis” and do something about that? Grace Marketplace is bringing drugs, crime, violence, & vagrancy here…when are they going to have a meeting on that?

    • Trying to comply with UN Kyoto Protocol is how they ruined GRU
      By going biomass and putting us
      A billion $ in debt…thanks Hanrahan…that was not a mandate from the State of Florida or the Federal government…our local government has been infiltrated by commie globalists for a long time….Anytime you see
      The word “sustainable”, that’s the UN…under the international covenant on civil and political rights (the UN Constitution)…the law can put a limit on your freedom of thought, your freedom of expression, and there’s no 2nd Amendment right to protect yourself or from a tyrannical government. Ever heard of Agenda 21 or Agenda 30? It’s all part of build back better and great reset.
      The WHO wants to usurp our nation’s sovereignty…new world order, one world government, global totalitarianism…vaccine passports to travel, etc. mandatory shots, social justice score, most advanced system of slavery ever divided by man. The devil is in the details and hiding behind the environment. Mark of the beast.

  • Guns aren’t why Golden Corral and Publix won’t build in District 1. Stop stealing, including guns. Use your churches to preach and change the culture, instead of helping Caesar’s lawyers suck money from your hood.

    • The woke culture think that having a nuclear family and a father is racist. It’s the destruction of the family. the welfare system, & the public school system that Is perpetuating ignorance. The dumbing down of society.

      • Yeah, kids don’t know if they’re boys or girls anymore….they are teaching gender dysphoria.

  • if the residents of east gainesville will just get rid of their gas stoves the shootings will stop!

  • When the Gainesville City Commission nearly doubles their pay with a wave of a hand the economically deprived feel empowered to cash with the wave of a gun.

  • Let me count the crisis’s so far in COG: gun crisis, affordable housing crisis, vehicle violence crisis, opioid crisis, homeless crisis. If everything is a crisis then nothing is a crisis anymore. How many of these would go away if the commission would focus on making Gainesville business and family friendly. If people have a good job that isn’t just retail and fast food that they can get to on well-maintained roads and are able to go home to a house that is actually affordable that they might be able to own because all the empty land hasn’t been taken off the market for student condos and conservation land then I bet a lot of these crisis would go away.

  • There is no “gun violence” problem. The problem is criminals committing crimes with gun. Don’t propose another crisis. Catch them, prosecute them, put them in jail. Do you really believe the priority for these criminals is buying a house?
    BTW, if you’re looking for solutions to reduce crime NYC and Houston are not the places to start.

  • The fascist commie mask wearing Marxist GNV commissioners probably have the same wet dream where they are all circle jerking each other while forcing masks, quarantines, vaccinations, & vaccine passports on us in order for us to travel while blue helmeted UN troops go door to door to take our guns. Liberalism is a mental disorder.
    They hate freedom, liberty, & the USA… they want everyone to be equitably miserable…”you will own nothing and be happy”…

  • Hey Des- what you said was- “Preventing gun violence takes more than police.” What you should have said is that “Preventing gun violence takes more police.” No need for a committee, the answer is simple. Adequately fund good, quality law enforcement, hunt down the people committing gun crimes, arrest them, rely on prosecutors to remove them from society. Nobody cares about their mental well-being, their future job prospects, or whether they can buy a house. Their burden to society outweighs any benefit they offer. Take them out of it so the rest of us can live in relative peace.

    • Oh yes, a lot of us are sick of these “woke” idiots. Every time I read about the GCC it makes me so glad I don’t live in the city. Your commissioners are clearly a bunch of woke morons who had the bloody never to vote themselves a raise. They are that confident of election….

  • The cause of violence, no matter the tool used, is not rooted in the government, except for where government policies have encouraged or enabled the true causes which are all social in nature.

    We’re expecting the fruit of moral decay caused by the decay of the nuclear family, the failure of parents to teach biblical morality and the fear of God, and the increase in purposelessness for young people.

    Some great Founding Father quotations copied from WallBuilders dot com:

    Love to God and love to man is the substance of religion; when these prevail, civil laws will have little to do.[5] John Witherspoon, Signer of the Declaration

    Without the restraints of religion and social worship, men become savages. [6] Benjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration

    I have always said, and always will say, that the studious perusal of the Sacred Volume will make better citizens, better fathers, and better husbands. [7] Thomas Jefferson, President, Signer of the Declaration

    In vain, without the Bible, we increase penal laws and draw entrenchments around our institutions. Bibles are strong entrenchments. Where they abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses. [8] James McHenry, Signer of the Constitution

    Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or by a power without them; either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or by the bayonet.[9] Robert Winthrop, Early Speaker of the U.S. House

  • Guns don’t walk around killing people, people kill people and they also kill with knives and cars, ect… And HOW is said “gun violence” a HEALTH issue? So tired of demonrats twisting crap around to fit in their agendas.

  • Beyond Any Doubt, this Gainesville Crime Wave and Murders are a direct and almost immediate result of the Gainesville Commission led by PoePoe, FHarvey and the rest of the losers that worship Portland, DC,Let’s go Brandon and The Democrat party. They have censored their Newspaper and Meetings to run from the guilt and responsibility, then more the double their salary. Losing Gru will pucker them up!!!!

  • Feelings will be hurt but we need a new chief.
    Foot patrols in trouble areas, get to know the people residing there.
    The mayor should be out there walking (no escort) in areas like Pine Ridge, Majestic Oaks and Sugar Hill at night. And talking with people asking them what their solutions are. Firsthand look at issues.
    Mayor should meet with only Officers who work these areas and ask for their possible solutions.

  • It is a criminals not being punished crisis. How do they use
    “Health crisis” for criminals killing people? Only the demonrats, demonrat cities and braindeadbiden admin use this stupid excuse.

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