Gun violence victims' moms want change

Moms ask for tougher penalties for guns, protection for witnesses

MIAMI – Tangela Sears grew up in Miami's Liberty City. Her peaceful activism against gun violence did not keep her only son, David Queen, from dying after a shooting last year in Tallahassee. But she is not giving up. She is pushing for change. 

Sears is a former Florida Department of Children and Families' employee, who is a political consultant and victims' advocate. She was pushing for a federal gang legislation amendment when a man pulled out a .22-caliber Derringer and shot her son twice in the chest.

Queen left Liberty City and moved to Tallahassee to study criminal justice at Florida A&M University. He married a pastor's daughter and had a daughter named Zannaa. Overwhelmed with grief, Sears used "#ItsMineThisTime" to share her pain on social media.

"Enough is enough," Sears said Thursday during a protest in front of the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office. She and about  a dozen others were chanting: "Enforce 10-20 life!"

Sears and other mothers of children who were killed were asking for a more aggressive use of the 10-20 life law, a mandatory minimum sentencing law that went into effect in 1998. It applies to the use of a firearm during the commission of a forcible felony. 

"Use a gun, and you are done," read an old public service announcement. "Pull a gun, get 10 years. Fire a gun, get 20 years. Shoot someone, get 25 years to life." 

But before cases even make it to the courtroom, homicide detectives say many crimes go unsolved due to a lack of witness testimony. To take aim at the no-snitch culture, Sears and the mothers are also lobbying for Florida House Bill 475 and Florida Senate Bill 1314.

The pending legislation would offer witnesses to a felony a temporary exemption from the public record to protect their identity.

Miami-Dade County Police Benevolent Association president John Rivera and Luther Campbell, better known as Uncle Luke, were also at the protest. Sears' invitation said the protesters were "demanding the police do aggressive investigations and the State Attorney's Office to enforce the laws."

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