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Juan Carlos Zapata, the dashing Colombian state representative from Miami-Dade County, insists during a recent interview he has no need to carry a pistol on his person. "I own some firearms, but I generally don't have them on me," Zapata says. Yet the 39-year-old Miami Sunset Senior High School graduate is among the more than 40,000 people in Miami-Dade who have licenses to carry concealed firearms (meaning these individuals may carry handguns holstered inconspicuously on themselves). Zapata's arsenal consists of a nine-millimeter handgun and a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum, the hand-held howitzer popularized by Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry character. "I'm really not a big gun guy," Zapata continues. "I'm not a hunter. Heck, I don't even shoot paintballs."
The Republican legislator, however, is a big believer in granting citizens the power to defend themselves, their families, and their property from home-invading and car-jacking thugs. That is why Zapata, along with other members of the Miami-Dade state legislative delegation, sponsored a House bill officially signed by Gov. Jeb Bush granting immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action to people who use deadly force in protecting themselves against deadly attackers and intruders. Under old state law, if someone was being robbed, raped, stabbed (you get the picture), he or she was required to retreat in the face of threatened violence and avoid confrontation. Armed citizens were also precluded from using lethal force after a crime had been completed or the perpetrator had surrendered.
Here's an example of how the new law works: Johnny is about to get carjacked by three menacing thugs -- one armed, two unarmed -- at the BP gas station on the corner of Fourteenth Street and Collins Avenue in Miami Beach. Johnny grabs his Ruger .45 caliber pistol and busts a few rounds at his would-be attackers, killing one of them. Guess what? Johnny would walk free and clear because the new law removes the "duty to retreat" requirement. "It essentially means you can shoot at someone who is prowling in your back yard and pointing a machine gun at you," Zapata relates. "The reality is that we live in a violent society, and folks should have the right to protect themselves."
The possibility of open season in gun-happy Miami-Dade launched New Times into action. The citizens of this county have a right to know who among them is packing heat. With that in mind, we obtained an electronic database listing the names of the people in our glorious subtropical paradise who have licenses for concealed pieces. In addition to individuals we might expect to carry guns -- minimart owners, tow truck drivers, private investigators, strip club managers, and nightclub owners -- greedy developers, blood-sucking lobbyists, pompous politicians, as well as architects, judges, and musicians are strapped in the Magic City.
Will a state bill granting individuals immunity from prosecution for using deadly force in self-defense lead to more back-yard shootouts? How can you get a license to arm yourself inconspicuously? And who's got a bigger pistola: Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez or Hialeah Mayor-for-Life Raul Martinez? The lowdown on the down-low
Who owns guns?
As of March 31, Florida has 131,629 people with licenses to carry concealed firearms. Miami-Dade has 40,561 men and women with permission from the state to tote tucked guns. There are approximately 29,831 white licensees, including Hispanics, compared to less than 5200 blacks with legally concealed weapons. In Miami Beach alone there are more than 900 people with pistol licenses.
How do you get a license?
First, you'll have to submit an application to the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which is charged with the constitutional duty of arming Florida's citizenry. But handling a concealed firearm is like downing twenty shots of José Cuervo tequila: With great power comes great responsibility. So you have to be at least 21 years old to apply for one. You'll have to drop $75 the first time you apply for the license, which runs for five years, and an additional $42 for fingerprint processing. You'll have to fork over another $70 each time you renew it. You must provide your full name, address, place and date of birth, and occupation. If you're pimping hoes or selling crack in the Magic City, just write down "entrepreneur." But always remember that state licensing officials use your fingerprints to run Florida Department of Law Enforcement and FBI criminal background checks on you. So if you're one of Miami's many convicted felons, celebrity or otherwise, you're scarred because the state will not issue you a license. The state will also deny a license if you have been committed to an insane asylum, sent to a drug rehab clinic, or convicted on a drug-related misdemeanor within the last three years from the date of your application.
How long does it take to obtain a concealed firearms license?
It usually takes 90 days to get your license. However, if you have your fingerprints taken electronically, you could get the license in less than 50 days. Or you could wait until the next local gun show, where you can take a four-hour course and walk out with a concealed firearms license by the time the show closes for the day.
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)
Randall L. Hilliard (Beach lobbyist)
Curtin K. Ivy, Jr. (mayor Florida City)
Barry Kutun (former Miami Beach mayor)
William H. Losner (Homestead banker)
Manny Medina (Terremark CEO)
Steven Perricone (owner, Perricone´s Marketplace and Café)
Josñ Quiñones (criminal defense attorney)
Rony F. Seikaly (former Heat player)
Victoria S. Sigler (judge)
George B. Slattery, Sr. (region´s top polygraph expert)
Jamie Suchlicki (University of Miami Cuba specialist)
Paul Vogel (former mayor North Bay Village)
Jeffrey S. Weiner (criminal defense attorney)
Some More Armed and Notable
Anthony Abraham (auto dealership magnate)
Pedro Adrian (real estate developer)
Cesar Alvarez (Greenberg Traurig chief executive)
Francisco Aruca (anti-Cuban Embargo businessman)
Roberto Casas (Hialeah councilman)
Alan Dorne (former North Bay Village mayor)
Eli Feinberg (lobbyist)
Neil Flaxman (labor union lawyer)
Armando Gutierrez (political campaign consultant)
Rafael Kapustin (real estate developer)
Ira Katz (prominent immigration lawyer)
Jevon Kearse (professional football player)
Fane Lozman (The Avenging Angel)
Gus Machado (auto dealership magnate)
Steven Marin (political campaign media strategist)
Jorge Mas (CANF chairman)
Ramon Mas (CANF chairman's brother)
Alberto Milian (former state attorney candidate)
Jose Milton (real estate developer)
Santana Moss (professional football player)
Hector Ortiz (Hialeah businessman)
Sergio Pereira (former county manager)
Jacob "Hank" Sopher (real estate investor)
Felipe Valls (La Carreta/Versailles owner)
Louis Terminello (nightclub and entertainment lawyer)
Gil Terem (Miami real estate investor)