By Chuck Strouse
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By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
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How often are guns used in the commission of a crime?
In Miami-Dade County, popping a cap into someone is the preferred method of murder. From 2000 through 2003, 538 of 796 homicides in Miami-Dade involved a firearm, according to the FDLE. In 2003 the use of firearm-involved murders increased by nineteen victims from the previous year. FDLE also reported that guns were used in 24,892 violent crime offenses such as robbery and aggravated assault between 2000 and 2003. Miami-Dade, the most densely populated county in Florida -- with 2,363,600 residents -- accounted for 6461 firearm-related crimes, almost 25 percent of the state's 25,900 violent offenses involving a gun in 2003. By comparison, Broward County -- with 1,754,893 residents -- had only 2015 firearm-related offenses the same year.
How many guns were seized by law-enforcement officials in the past year?
The tactical narcotics team, the street gang unit, and the robbery intervention detail of the Miami-Dade Police Department seized 220 firearms used in crimes. The street gang unit alone seized 52 weapons, a 46 percent increase from 2003. Earlier this year Guillermo Cardoso-Arias entered a guilty plea to federal charges of trying to export 200 fully automatic AK-47 assault rifles to a paramilitary group in Colombia. According to Jamie Higgins, spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, most guns seized by law-enforcement officials entered the illegal market when a legitimate gun owner unknowingly sold his piece to a convicted felon or had it stolen.
Where can you get some target practice?
There are several indoor gun ranges throughout the county; however, Miami-Dade is home to an outdoor target-shooting facility completely subsidized with taxpayers' money. The Trail Trap and Skeet Club on SW 176th Avenue and Eighth Street, on the edge of the Everglades, is one of the oldest gun ranges in the state. The facility is operated by the Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation Department. It features six trap and skeet fields, a half-dozen 100-yard rifle ranges, and a 50-yard pistol range, all with covered firing positions.
Who's locked and loaded?
Andres Duany, world-famous architect, planner, and husband of Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, is one of Miami's most well-known gun owners, as are Joe Ferrero and Enrique Santos, the boorish morning-show hosts of Spanish-language radio station WXDJ (El Zol, 95.7 FM). Television reporters José Manuel Cao and Willard Shepard, as well as former Miami Herald journalist Edna Buchanan, tote concealed firearms. All the men in the Diaz-Balart oligarchy (congressmen Mario and Lincoln, news anchor José, and family patriarch Rafael) are licensed to carry concealed firearms. Politicians packing heat include Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez, and North Miami Mayor Josaphat "Joe" Celestin. County commissioners Joe Martinez, Dennis Moss, and Javier Souto and state representatives Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Julio Robaina, and Juan Carlos Zapata are also exercising their right to bear arms. Other notable people on the list include Forge owner Shareef Malnik, lobbyist Rodney Barreto, Hialeah auto magnate Gus Machado, and mega-developer Sergio Pino.
Gun Owners Are Your Neighbors
José Basulto: The 64-year-old president of Brothers to the Rescue has been licensed to carry a concealed weapon for almost twelve years. "I've always enjoyed target shooting at the range on Tamiami Trail," Basulto says, referring to the Trail Trap and Skeet Club. "I got a license so I wouldn't have any problems having my gun on me." However, Basulto, who owns a .22 caliber Ruger, claims he has not carried his piece in six months. "I haven't had time for any target practice," he muses, adding that carrying a hidden pistol didn't help him when he was assaulted on the streets more than a year ago.
Rodney Barreto: One may wonder why a high-powered government lobbyist would be packing heat. Maybe he needs protection when he's transporting large bundled bags of campaign contributions to county commissioners? Of course not, insists Barreto, one of the so-called private "government affairs" consultants who helps Fortune 500 companies win lucrative county contracts. "Actually, I haven't carried a gun on my waist since I was a cop," says Barreto, who was a member of Miami's finest more than eighteen years ago. "After 9/11, I used to carry a gun in my car, but it was in a locked box. I stopped doing that after realizing life is too short to be worrying about the guy in the car next to you, exploding with road rage."
Although Barreto is not a member of the NRA or the ARA, he is an avid hunter. His hunting rifles feature an array of semiautomatic and double-pump shotguns. Barreto still owns his service revolvers from his MPD days and a .32 caliber Ruger he received from his fellow commission colleagues on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The pistol has the commission's logo engraved on the grip. "But I'm very careful with my guns," Barreto says. "All of them are under lock and key."
Armed and Notable
Carlos Arboleya, Sr. (banker)
Teofilo Babun (businessman, Cuba specialist)
Raul Casares (major developer, father of Ingrid)
Arthur H. Courshon (retired big-shot attorney, UM board of trustees)
Andres Duany (world-famous architect, planner, husband of Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk)
Russell W. Galbut (Miami Beach developer)