Report indicates a rise in gun use among Tampa Bay Teenagers

Gun use among children is increasing both nationally and in the Tampa Bay area. According to a recent Everytown survey, youngsters unintentionally shot and killed 157 individuals last year, injuring 270.

According to Safe and Sound Hillsborough, 201 children were arrested in 2022 for firearms crimes. By 2023, that figure had risen to 221.

This year is off to a horrible start, with 74 minors already facing firearm charges.

We met with one of those youngsters who is striving to rebuild his life after being caught carrying a gun in his backpack at school. We won’t reveal his identity because he is only 17, but he wants to share his tale to raise awareness.

“You gotta hold yourself accountable for all your actions.”

This young man served 21 days in juvenile jail and completed Safe and Sound Hillsborough’s gun offender program. He described it as a difficult year filled with contemplation and regret.

He stated that since then, the projection of his life has “slowed down.”

In high school, he rapidly had to mature and accept the consequences. As he sat in court and juvenile jail, he reflected on the long journey ahead.

“Yeah, you’re nervous, though; you’re definitely nervous,” he added. “Not something you want to get used to.”

He served his time and finished his programs, but he now frequently returns to Safe and Sound Hillsborough to stay on track and chat to other youngsters in similar situations.

Safe and Sound Hillsborough aims to keep weapons out of the hands of children while spreading his message.

“We are in court every day, and we are seeing more and more juveniles getting their hands on guns,” Freddy Barton, the company’s chief executive officer, stated

According to Barton, 80% of the weapons that minors get originate from unlocked cars. He emphasized the need of properly locking and storing firearms.

He also advised parents to check their children’s backpacks and bedrooms to ensure they do not carry a gun.

“We all have to do this together, or else we’re going to see these numbers increase,” he stated.

Safe and Sound also collaborates with the Tampa Police Department, which recently received a grant from the Department of Justice to prevent gun violence among children.

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