Orlando teams with voting advocate to roll out program that predicts who might get shot or shoot someone

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which fought for the right of people convicted of most felonies to vote, will lead effort.

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A group that led the charge to restore voting rights to most people convicted of felonies in Florida is poised to take on a new challenge: Gun violence. 

The city of Orlando has contracted with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition to manage its gun-violence initiative, The Orlando Sentinel reported. 

Desmond Meade, executive director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, speaks onstage last November during “LIVE FREE USA Turns 10: Creating Safer Neighborhoods” at Ciel Creative Space in Berkeley, California. (Photo: Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images)

“It’s critical work and delicate work, but it’s much needed,” Desmond Meade, the coalition’s executive director, told The Sentinel. “This is not an instant-result journey that we’re on right now. It’s something that we’re looking to have sustainable change and impact.”

The program aims to identify and help people likely to be the perpetrators or victims of gun violence.  

The Sentinel says the coalition will hire a program manager and four neighborhood change agents responsible for building relationships with 10 to 12 people each. All are paid positions.

The coalition will use a model created by the California-based Advance Peace, a non-profit organization “dedicated to ending cyclical and retaliatory gun violence in American Urban neighborhoods,” according to its website. It predicts who might be a gun-violence target and who could commit gun violence. 

Orlando residents were shaken by shootings last month that include a 19-year-old allegedly shot by a 10-year-old and a mother charged with manslaughter after authorities allege her two-year-old son got hold of a Glock 19 and killed his father.

The Sentinel’s story describing the gun-violence initiative appeared on Sunday, the six-year anniversary of the tragic Pulse nightclub shooting during which 49 people died and more than 50 were injured. On Saturday, youngsters active at an Orlando Boys & Girls Club staged a march against gun violence amid youth-led “March For Our Lives” protests across the nation that thousands of Americans attended.

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition’s contract to administer the gun-violence initiative is worth $535,000. The money will be allocated from Orlando’s $1.5 million share of American Rescue plan funds, per the report.

In 2018, the coalition successfully ran an project called Amendment 4, which restored voting rights to most people convicted of felonies who’d finished their sentence. A year later, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill prohibiting the estimated 1.4 million people who regained the right to vote from casting ballots unless they paid all of the financial obligations imposed by a court.

At an Orlando City Council meeting in January announcing the program, Commissioner Bakari Burns called gun violence a public health issue.

“While I don’t think this program [alone] will end it [gun violence], it will put us in the right direction of identifying those individuals, getting them help, but also just reducing homicides in Orlando, as well as gun violence,” Burns told WKMG-TV at the time. “And those are the two main focuses of that program.”

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