Gun-related homicides are on the rise in Tampa
Tampa's rate of firearm-related homicides ticked up in recent years, according to an analysis by the left-leaning Center for American Progress Action Fund provided exclusively to Axios.
The big picture: The cities with the highest rates are clustered in the South, generally in red states with less restrictive gun laws, the analysis shows.
- There's a distinct gap between urban firearm homicide rates in blue states — which tend to have stronger gun safety laws — and those in red states.
Why it matters: The report argues that the findings refute Republican narratives that progressive policies stoke more crime in cities.
By the numbers: There were 8.8 firearm-related homicides per 100,000 Tampa residents in 2015. That figure ballooned in 2020, fell slightly in 2021 and eventually settled at 13.2 in 2022.
Zoom out: The average gun homicide rate in blue-state cities was 7.2 per 100,000 residents from 2015 to 2022, the analysis found. In red-state cities, it was 11.1 deaths per 100,000 during the same time period.
The intrigue: Tampa's Democratic Mayor Jane Castor has called for "sensible gun control," held events aimed at curbing gun violence and criticized state efforts to loosen firearm regulation. But state law prohibits her and other local officials from creating any ordinance on the matter.
Catch up quick: The tug-of-war between Florida and its local governments over gun control traces back three decades. The Legislature enacted a law in 1987 that preempted local ordinances and allowed the state to assume exclusive authority over firearms and ammunition regulation.
- The preemption statute, however, lacked teeth. It dealt no penalties to cities or counties that ignored the restriction and still enforced their own gun ordinances.
- In 2011, then-state Rep. Matt Gaetz sponsored legislation to strengthen Florida's authority on firearm regulation. It empowered the state to impose fines on local governments that defied the statute.
- More than 30 cities, including St. Petersburg and Dunedin, filed a constitutional challenge, and in 2019, a trial court judge struck down the penalties set in Gaetz's law. An appeals court later ruled in favor of the state and reinstated most of them.
Be smart: What's happening in Tampa is not uncommon. Cities typically don't have much control over gun laws, experts tell Axios.
- "A lot of cities are bound by state-level policies," said Dan Semenza, an assistant professor at Rutgers. "There's often little wiggle room for cities to be able to go far and beyond the policies that states have on the books."
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