TAMPA, Fla. — The impacts of gun violence are widespread, but data shows communities of color are affected at a higher rate. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found one in five Black adults feel gun violence is a constant threat to their community, which is more than double among white adults.

What You Need To Know

  • Communities of color are disproportionately affected by gun violence, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. 

  • A professor at the University of Florida explained the issue has gradually been getting worse since the 1960s.

  • Safe and Sound Hillsborough aims to educate youth involved in gun-related crimes and prevent them from re-offending. 
  • Members from the Hillsborough Corrections Transition Team share their experience behind bars with the teens every other week.

When Brian Humphrey flips through family photos, he sees the life he missed out on during the 28 years he spent in prison. Humphrey didn’t get to see any of his eight kids grow up. Two of his youngest died before he was released.

“I used to tell my dad that I was going to be in the NFL,” Humphrey said. “But once he died, it killed my dreams.”

By the time Humphrey was 19 years old, he had been shot four times. At 23, he was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

“I was at the point where I was starting to be curious about what it is to be a man, and now I didn’t have that man in my life anymore,” Humphrey said. “I went to the street to try to find that father figure to see what is it to be a man. And everything I was taught was actually teaching me how to be a knucklehead.”

After serving nearly 30 years of his life sentence, Humphrey was released in October 2020. Now, he shares his story with a group of young men charged with gun-related crimes. They meet every other week at Safe and Sound Hillsborough, a nonprofit dedicated to violence prevention.

“If I were to have something like this, it probably would’ve kept me focused on my goals,” Humphrey said. “Just keep one out of trouble, out of prison and get them to start thinking before they react. Then, I’ll be good.”

In Hillsborough County, nearly 200 youth between 10 and 17 years old were arrested for possessing a weapon or firearm in the 2021-22 fiscal year, according to data from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. Of those arrests, 70% were Black youth. 

Sharon Austin, a political science professor at the University of Florida who specializes in African-American studies, explained gun violence in Black communities has gradually gotten worse since the 1960s.

“It can affect any community, but African-Americans are disproportionately the targets of it simply because African-Americans are more likely to live in poorer neighborhoods,” Austin explained. “A lot of it also was because of the drug epidemics — the crack epidemic of the eighties, later with gang violence in a lot of communities during the nineties. There was a huge spike in gun violence.”

Austin said community programs and improving education are crucial to preventing gun violence.

“If children have something productive that they can engage in, that will make them not be as likely to engage in any type of crime or any type of gun violence,” she said. “It’s really unfortunate, especially here in Florida, that there are so many efforts to eliminate those DEI programs that have really benefitted and helped to address other problems.”

Humphrey is thankful he’s been given a second chance to do good with his life. He hopes to show young men that it’s not too late for them, too, to turn a wrong into a right. 

“I had a lot of hatred in my heart,” Humphrey said. “But since I accepted the Lord in my life, I have a lot of love. And the world needs some love.”