clarence-d-williams-iii-web.jpgchief_cason_web.jpgRIVIERA BEACH — The mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut last month which left 20 young children and six adult educators dead has spurred debate at local and national levels over gun violence and easy access to assault weapons.

But municipal efforts cannot be fully effective without a uniform approach at state and federal levels, according to Riviera Beach Police Chief Clarence Williams.

“It doesn’t make any difference if people can purchase from states that border the area and bring them back,”  Williams said.

Williams believes a ban on assault weapons for civilians will help reduce accessibility to these guns and large capacity magazines.

“The gun show loophole that circumvents background checks and waiting periods makes guns available to individuals that don’t have the ability to buy them,” he said.

Opa-locka Police Chief Cheryl Cason agrees.

“I believe in a right to bear arms. However, people don’t need assault weapons,” she said. “You don’t need high-power weapons with heavy artillery (to protect your home).”

Cason said violent video games contribute to the problem and that gangs will still be able to get banned weapons “but it won’t be so easy and they won’t be as prevalent.”

According to state Rep. Hazelle Rogers, D-Lauderhill, there is not a “one size fits all” approach to dealing with gun control.

“There’s not one thing that will fix this issue,” she said. “Some folks get guns from their parents.  There are responsibilities on every level,” she said. “We need to protect our communities, our children.  We need to make sure everyone is registered, look at mental health issues and make sure weapons are in a safe place.”

For Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor, enforcement of existing gun laws is also a key to curbing gun violence.

“Certainly something needs to be done.  It’s one thing to have the laws on the books but enforcing is another,” she said.

Taylor said individuals who should not have access to guns still get them, such as “people with mental issues.”

Riviera Beach Mayor Thomas Masters said that children’s safety and security are important concerns right now. Metal detectors in Palm Beach County public schools will be a step in the right direction, he said.

“Children are bringing weapons onto school (campuses) in book bags,” he said. “Whether students or an irate parent, they should not be able to bring weapons to school and walk through the doors.”

Williams, the police chief, said if residents want to make a difference, they should let their voices be heard.

“Gun violence is a national pandemic and there has to be a national effort or else we’re not going to get anywhere at all,” he said.

His message to residents: “Encourage your national legislative leaders to support, for example, a senate bill proposal to re-enact the (assault weapons) ban and close the gun show loopholes.”

Unless something is done, Masters said, the easy access to guns may lead to another tragedy.

“Kids have greater access to weapons and are sometimes more heavily armed than the police,” he said.

“With guns, drugs and some of the mental health issues, there’s no telling what could happen in some of these schools.”

*Pictured above is Riviera Beach Police Chief Clarence Williams (left) and Opa-locka Police Chief Cheryl Cason.