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Tampa's police chief encourages residents to report illegal guns and secure their firearms

A woman with medium length hair and in a black police uniform stands in front of a podium with the tampa police log on it. There are about a dozen people standing beside and behind her.
Tampa Police Department
Tampa Police Chief Mary O'Connor addresses reporters and Tampa residents during a Facebook livestream news conference. She encourages people to report illegal guns, and secure their own weapons safely inside their homes and vehicles.

Mary O'Connor held the news conference a day after two gun-related homicides occurred two hours apart.

Tampa Police Chief Mary O'Connor held a news conference Tuesday, a day after two gun-related homicides occurred two hours apart.

Since the start of June, O'Connor said the department has arrested six convicted felons for firearms possession.

O'Connor is encouraging residents to report anyone who illegally owns a handgun.

"Let us know. Let Crime Stoppers know. You use the app. Use Tip 411 to text a tip. Let somebody know," O'Connor said.

"But always remember that you can remain anonymous. We need your help to get that gun out of the hands before they can use it."

She also reminded gun owners to secure their firearms, saying that 78 guns have been stolen from unlocked vehicles this year.

"Myself and no members of the Tampa Police Department want to have to tell another family member that their loved one is no longer with them due to senseless gun violence," O'Connor said.

"The gun violence has to end right now. And I think we all have to agree that we've all talked about it enough and it's time for action."

Florida Rep. Dianne Hart was also at the news conference. She responded to both crime scenes on Monday, including one in which a 15-year-old and 24-year-old both had guns they used on one another. The 24-year-old was killed.

"My heart is pretty heavy this afternoon because I had to stand there and hear those families scream," Hart said.

"If you could just imagine the scream that I heard when they walked up to find that their loved one had been murdered right at their own front door. How difficult that had to be."

She encouraged parents to "shake down" their children's rooms and look for guns.

"When kids bring things into the house that shouldn't be, we cannot put blinders on. I cannot stand around and say, 'Oh, well, you know, it does happen.' No, it does not happen," Hart said. "Not in our community. I was born and raised in this community. This is not what I'm accustomed to."

O'Connor proclaimed June 3 as National Gun Violence Awareness Day in Tampa.

I took my first photography class when I was 11. My stepmom begged a local group to let me into the adults-only class, and armed with a 35 mm disposable camera, I started my journey toward multimedia journalism.