With the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., still weighing heavy in the nation's consciousness, Florida's elected leaders are pushing for measures to curb gun violence.
Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner said he will ask for commission approval Wednesday to start an annual gun buyback program and a yearly memorial for victims of gun violence.
Money to buy weapons would come from an annual county allocation plus support from local businesses, under Beckner's plan.
"In the wake of what happened in Newtown, I think there are communities like ours whose leaders are searching for what we can do to curtail some of this gun violence," Beckner said.
"I started researching and looking at this issue and what I have found is that other communities said will work: a gun buyback program."
Beckner acknowledged this approach is "not the silver bullet" to end gun violence. A 2004 study by the National Research Council, in fact, concluded gun buybacks are ineffective and that the programs' central premise, reducing the number of guns in a community results in fewer gun-related crimes, is "badly flawed."
But Beckner, once a university police officer whose partner is still in law enforcement, said he thinks holding gun buybacks on a regular basis will make a difference.
He also aims to convene a panel of educators, law enforcement officers, mental health professionals and others to develop prevention and intervention programs to reduce gun crimes.
Meantime, in St. Petersburg, City Councilman Steve Kornell plans to ask his colleagues Thursday to support a lobbying effort with state and federal officials for increased gun control, including reinstating a national ban on assault-type weapons.
Kornell, who advocated for tougher gun control measures before the Dec. 12 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, said the tragedy may have made it possible for St. Petersburg to renew a dialogue about guns.
"I think we have a problem in St. Pete and other cities," Kornell said. "The (police) chief has told us he is taking one illegal gun off the street per day."
In 2011, Kornell came up short in pushing a resolution for state and federal lawmakers to implement tougher gun controls. Kornell said he would like to see a ban on military-style weapons as well as laws that make it easier to prosecute "straw buyers," people who illegally purchase guns for others.
"City councils can't do that, but state and federal governments can," Kornell said. "So what I'm asking is for that to be added to our legislative agenda."
At the federal level, U.S. Rep. Peter Deutsch, a Boca Raton Democrat, said he wants Congress to set aside $200 million for a nationwide gun buyback program. Deutsch said the program has the potential to take 1 million guns off the streets.
Deutsch said buybacks can help balance the thousands of guns purchased at gun shows where buyers can skip the background check they undergo at licensed retail stores.
"The buyback program will give us the opportunity to take hundreds of guns off the streets from people who might otherwise sell them at the gun shows where there is a loophole we need to close," Deutsch said.
Deutsch said he also supports reinstatement of the ban on assault rifles.
It will only come after a prolonged fight with the powerful gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association, he said.
The National Research Council study, "Firearms and Violence: a Critical Review," said the theory used as the rationale for gun buybacks is flawed in several respects.
For one, researchers found that guns typically surrendered are those least likely to be used in crimes, such as malfunctioning guns, or those from individuals who derive little value from them, such as people who inherited the guns.
Secondly, because replacement guns are relatively easy to get, the actual decline in the number of guns on the street after the buybacks may be smaller than the number of guns turned in.
The council cited other studies that reached the same conclusions.
"In light of the weakness in the theory underlying gun buybacks," the researchers said, "it is not surprising that research evaluations of U.S. efforts have consistently failed to document any link between such programs and reductions in gun violence."
Beckner cited his own statistics:
Beckner said he will ask County Administrator Mike Merrill to put together a format for an annual buyback program and for the gun victims' memorial within 30 days, and to assemble the task force on intervention and prevention programs in 60 days.