From the Pulse nightclub massacre that took place in 2017 to the Parkland high school mass shooting on Valentine’s Day a year ago, Florida has seen its share of senseless tragedies in recent years. There were mass shootings at the Fort Lauderdale airport, the Jacksonville Landing, and most recently at a bank in Sebring earlier this year.
Each time the same questions were asked. How could this happen? What can be done to prevent such tragedies from happening again?
Florida’s business community is teaming up with law enforcement and educators to create the Institute for a Safer Florida. Spearheaded by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the mission of the institute is to transform Florida from a state where mass shootings have claimed dozens of lives, to a state that has the safest schools and workplaces in the nation.
Florida Chamber President Mark Wilson says the initiative will take a close look at safety issues at schools and workplaces, as well explore mental health issues. But, Wilson says the effort will not address the issue of guns and gun control.
“Guns are a very important conversation. Right? Guns are used in a lot of workplace violence and a lot of school violence. There’s no question about that,” said Wilson. “But, this effort is about what can be done about the people, about the policies, about the practices to prevent the violence in the first place. That’s where are focus is going to be.”
The Chamber will work with experts from law enforcement, education, health care, human resource and business leaders to look for answers that could prevent mass shootings from occurring again in Florida.
“Parents send their children to school every day praying and expecting that their kids are being taught in the safest learning environment possible,” said Stacey Chambers, the director of Florida State University School. Chambers serves on the institute’s Advisory Panel. She was a school principal in Connecticut when a mass shooting occurred at an elementary school at Sandy Hook. She has dealt with active shooters at her own school campuses.
“While there has been work done in identifying gaps in school safety, we can do more, and the institute will help to keep a spotlight on this,” Chambers said.
Wilson says the better sharing of information and better preparedness on the front end can go a long way to making Florida a safer place.
“You ask me how Florida is doing, I wouldn’t even want to give a letter grade to Florida, I don’t think we know,” said Wilson.
“I think what the Institute for a Safer Florida going to do is we’re going to look at all 67 counties, all 405 cities, every school district and we’re going to find that out,” Wilson added. “And what we’re going to do is figure out what we’ve learned from the tragedies that happened. What are the best practices that could be replicated throughout Florida.”