Survey Finds Tallahassee Residents Are Afraid. Here's Why They Feel That Way.

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Fear is a powerful motivator in a lot of ways. Ukraine, for example, had a lot of gun control until they feared invasion from Russia. Here in the United States, a lot of people buy guns because they're afraid. They move to different neighborhoods or even different states. They do all sorts of things out of fear.


But we need to remember that there rational fears and irrational fears. Our fears can be the product of legitimate problems or they can be the result of perceptions with no grounding in reality.

A recent survey in Tallahassee, Florida found that a lot of people have fear. They fear getting shot.

Amid a year of almost record violence, the Tallahassee-Leon County Council on the Status of Men and Boys surveyed the community to gauge residents' perception of safety, main causes of violence and potential solutions.

Now, the results are in — nearly half of local residents are concerned they'll lose a loved one to gun violence.

The local organization conducted a 19-question, online survey in May 2023 — right before last year's peak time of violence — that was sent out to Tallahassee and Leon County residents 18 years or older. The survey received 668 legitimate responses.

The City Commission requested an update from the organization and will be discussing the survey's results at Wednesday's meeting.

How safe do you feel where you live?

The first section of the survey aimed to gain an understanding of the community's sense of safety. Respondents were asked how safe they felt during the day and during the night where they live. The survey found that 92% said they feel safe during the day and 73% said they feel safe at night.

More than half said the area in which they live has maintained the same level of safety in the past year, but 45% — almost half — of respondents indicated some level of concern that they would lose a loved one to gun violence.


Now, that's concerning, to say the least. The odds are, however, that they won't. 

So why do they think that way?

Well, let's look at what we know about violent crime in Tallahassee for a moment, and here we luck up a bit.

It seems a couple of researchers at FSU--also conveniently located in Tallahassee--took a look at shooting incidents between 2019 and 2023. This was conducted last year, so it didn't contain all the shootings in the city, but it did look at 733 of them, which I'd say looks like a decent sample size to me.

And what did they find?

Well, for starters, most of the shootings took place in just four neighborhoods.

As such, it's unlikely that most people would ever know anyone being shot because most people simply don't live in those four neighborhoods, nor spend all that much time in and around them.

Yet people are scared they're going to lose someone they care about. Why?

Because the media has indoctrinated people into believing that so-called gun violence is rampant. They've done all they can to convince people the problem is worse than it is so they can leverage that into political will to enact gun control laws that don't actually do much of anything.

And it's working. There was some feedback included in the survey.

According to the survey summary, respondents wrote things such as:

  • “Make guns less available!”
  • “Our youth need early opportunities to develop skills that offer purpose, a positive identity, and a career path.”
  • “Safe, decent & affordable housing, healthy food options, accessible health care, a living wage, affordable & accessible culturally competent behavioral health services.”
  • “Hiring more cops so they can proactively police instead of being reactive.”
  • “Actually punish those who commit gun crimes. Make the penalty harsh enough to where people do not want to commit gun violence.”

So yeah, at least some people are pushing for gun control in response to a situation where people who got guns despite gun laws are creating problems for the law-abiding. Others, thankfully, have more grounding in reality, but the issue is we don't know just how many favor one approach over another.

Which I suspect is by design, but I'm becoming more cynical in my old age.

Either way, this perception is warped not by reality, but by reporting. The old line "if it bleeds, it leads," has morphed into a kind of activism that tries to favor certain kinds of bleeding as somehow being more newsworthy, shaping perceptions.

At the end of the day, though, violence is a people issue and that's where attention needs to be focused.

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