Assault Rifles Are Big Business in Florida as Federal Ban Looms
Illustration by Chris Whetzel

As Suleiman Yousef fires a sleek black AR-15-style rifle, orange and blue muzzle bursts flash inside the Trail Glades Gun Range in West Miami-Dade. The rapid-fire rounds ping off a metal target 100 yards away. His thick arms hold steady against the explosive recoil.

Then Yousef, a 31-year-old South Miami self-defense trainer with a bald dome and bushy beard, hands me the heavy weapon. His friend Sean Yamuni, a 33-year-old one-armed marksman, shows me how to release the safety with my right thumb. "You want to rest your cheek against the stock," Yamuni instructs. "Look for the red dot in the scope."

My heart races as I awkwardly take aim and unleash 28 bullets, most burying themselves silently in the earthen berm behind the target. It's both exhilarating and terrifying.

Suleiman Yousef purchased his first AR-15-style rifle in 2006, two years after the federal assault rifle ban expired.
Giulio Sciorio
Suleiman Yousef purchased his first AR-15-style rifle in 2006, two years after the federal assault rifle ban expired.
Jorge Corbato has been making rifles in Miami for almost a decade.
Francisco Alvarado
Jorge Corbato has been making rifles in Miami for almost a decade.
At a recent Miami gun show, Eric Faden hoped to capitalize on the bullish market for rifles.
Francisco Alvarado
At a recent Miami gun show, Eric Faden hoped to capitalize on the bullish market for rifles.
Sean Yamuni says shooting high-powered rifles is as American as watching football.
Giulio Sciorio
Sean Yamuni says shooting high-powered rifles is as American as watching football.
Prosecutors say Tyrone Bivins shot five people, including an 11-year-old boy, with an AK-47.
Courtesy Miami-Dade Corrections
Prosecutors say Tyrone Bivins shot five people, including an 11-year-old boy, with an AK-47.

Semiautomatic rifles like this Knight's Armament SR-15 have taken center stage in a reignited push for gun control in the wake of Adam Lanza's Newtown massacre, with politicians from Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado to President Barack Obama calling for new federal bans and millions of enthusiasts triggering a gun-buying mania so frenzied dealers can't keep up.

Florida is ground zero for the clash. For years, the National Rifle Association has used Tallahassee's compliant legislature as a test tube for gun-friendly laws. The Sunshine State was the first to pass Stand Your Ground, which has spread to 17 other states and earned national media attention after the Trayvon Martin killing, and the first to break a million concealed weapons permits. Thanks to generous tax breaks, gun manufacturers have flocked to Florida under Gov. Rick Scott.

There's also plenty of carnage wrought by Florida's gun obsession. In Miami-Dade, 80 percent of the 63 homicides in the past year have been gun-related. In Broward's major cities, 25 out of 37 homicides from the past 13 months involved a gun, by New Times' unofficial count. Mass shootings in black neighborhoods may not garner Lanza-like press, but they've become a regular part of life from Overtown to Miami Gardens, where 25-year-old Brandon Bryant was recently cut down by more than 50 rounds from a high-powered rifle at a Super Bowl party.

In the wake of Sandy Hook Elementary's stomach-churning horror, both the Republican and Democratic parties have gone hyperbolic, from NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer likening gun control proposals to discrimination, to President Obama tearfully invoking Newtown's child victims in his State of the Union last week. But Florida's relationship with guns goes much deeper than broadsides fired by right-to-bear-arms zealots and liberal loudmouths. Thousands of regular Miamians like Yousef and Yamuni own assault rifles. Hundreds of others like Bryant's family have been crushed by shootings. Scores of small businesses thrive by buying and selling guns.

To try to better understand our state's complicated love affair with the weapons Obama wants to ban and Rush Limbaugh wants in every closet, I dove headfirst into Florida's gun culture — from a local manufacturer to the sellers, buyers, and die-hard enthusiasts to the everyday victims of violence in Miami's poorest neighborhoods.

Fact is, creating a Florida without guns — or even without assault rifles — is about as probable as enforcing a topless sunbathing ban in Miami Beach. Surprisingly, almost everyone I met agrees Florida and the nation need tighter controls, less scaremongering, and an end to mass shootings.

How to get there, of course, is as complex as the aluminum and steel mechanisms launching rounds from the SR-15 in my hands.


The Manufacturers

An overhead swivel lamp illuminates Jorge Corbato's workspace inside a cramped concrete warehouse off Bird Road near Tropical Park. In the early afternoon of February 1, the 48-year-old Cuban-American uses a lathe to cut a 20-inch steel tube. A husky Miami native with short salt-and-pepper hair, Corbato wears a denim apron to catch metal shavings. After peering down the tube, he stops the machine, satisfied.

He carefully screws the barrel into an AR-15 receiver, the part of the rifle that includes the trigger, the magazine port, and the serial number. Over the next hour, he adds the barrel shroud, the firing pin, the pistol grip, and the stock.

It's the first AR-15 that Corbato has built in two weeks, but not for lack of business. In fact, semiautomatic rifles — and the more deadly assault rifles — are so in demand he's had trouble getting enough components for his shop. (AR-15s are technically not assault rifles because they can fire only one bullet with each pull of the trigger, but are often lumped in with the M-4, the military version, which can fire multiple rounds.)

"I can't produce every single part myself," he says. "Before Sandy Hook, I was making 25 AR-15 rifles a week. Everything I had built, I sold. Now when customers call me, I have to tell them to call back in a couple of weeks."

Corbato is one of dozens of small operators in Florida's booming gun-making industry, which has exploded recently. Over the past two years, the state legislature has rolled out the red carpet for firearms makers, bringing in a bonanza that conservatives have hailed as good job creation but liberals have denounced as a regressive move.

"There are members of the legislature who in recent years have talked about the funding of terrorist groups," state Sen. Dwight Bullard told the Miami Herald. "The idea that we're giving incentives to [assault weapons manufacturers] is problematic. It's hypocritical."

Corbato, though, represents another side of Florida's gun industry: a mom-and-pop operation where the tax cuts haven't meant much and the hubbub has only added unwanted politics to a job he sees as a personal passion. "There is nothing negative about what I do," he says. "It won't bring me bad karma."

Gun manufacturing isn't new to the Sunshine State. Large firms began moving in during the 1980s — and controversy soon followed. One company called Interdynamic opened in Miami in 1981 with the soon-to-be infamous Intratec TEC-9, a handgun that could blast 300 rounds a minute. Brazilian firearms builder Forjas Taurus opened its American subsidiary, Taurus USA, in the Magic City in 1984, and in 1993, Century International Arms established its beachhead in Delray Beach.

But the industry changed dramatically in 1994, thanks to the Brady Bill, a piece of legislation that sought to ban assault rifles like the AK-47, the AR-15, and 15 other high-powered weapons. The locally made TEC-9, one of the weapons banned from new production under the bill, soon became one of the highest-profile weapons outlawed when one of the shooters in the Columbine High School massacre used the gun.

The prohibition failed spectacularly thanks to mortar-size loopholes. Manufacturers flooded the market with grandfathered-in weapons. Others simply altered parts and sold firearms under different names.

In 2004, Congress let the ban die, leading to a new boom in AR-15 and AK-47 manufacturing. Under Rick Scott, Florida has done its best to capitalize on that market. In December 2011, Colt's Manufacturing Company received a $1.6 million tax credit in Osceola County, bringing 63 jobs. Palm Harbor-based Adams Arms, which manufactures equipment for AR-15-style rifles, got $200,000 to open in Pasco County, hiring 29 people. Kel Tec CNC, a Cocoa Beach company that made the handgun that George Zimmerman used to kill Trayvon Martin, received nearly $15,000 to train employees.

Around the time the 2004 ban expired, Corbato decided to enter the business for very different reasons. Corbato, the son of an architect who worked as a military contractor, was introduced to guns by his father.

"I shot my first competition when I was 8 years old," he says. "By the time I was a teenager, I had won some competitions statewide. I even got to try out for the 1980 Olympic team."

After graduating from Christopher Columbus High School in 1982, Corbato stopped competitive shooting to focus on amateur motorcycle racing. He quit racing after earning a biology degree from Biscayne College (now known as St. Thomas University) and spent the next 20 years in Jackson Memorial Hospital's trauma center doing CAT scans. "I got to see how precious life is," he says.

But Corbato never lost his entrepreneurial spirit and yearned for a career that would use his mechanical abilities. So he took a course in gun making from Colt and in 2002 left Jackson to form Project Guns with a friend from Boca Raton. Three years ago, Corbato started Nebulous Ordinance, building custom rifles and restoring historic pieces for museum exhibits or movie props. Corbato's custom AR-15s sell for $1,200 to $2,000.

"A lot of my clients work for Homeland Security, the FBI, and the military," he says.

Corbato's business is threatened by more than just a shortage of parts. On January 24, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced a bill that would ban not only AR-15s and AK-47s but also 155 other firearms, including the vintage shotguns and semiautomatic submachine guns Corbato repairs.

Corbato believes his industry is wrongfully vilified. "I've thought a few times about pulling the plug so I don't have to stress," he says. "However, I believe I provide a real service."


The Buyers and Sellers

Eric Faden strolls through the Miami-Dade County Fair Expo Center with a white sheet of paper taped to his shirt. It reads in black marker: "AK-47s 4 SALE."

It's late afternoon on January 20, the last day of Victor Bean's Southern Classic Gun & Knife Show, and a dozen people have already approached the 20-year-old about the four rifles he's selling. Asking price: $1,200 each. He won't say how much he paid for them. "Buy low, sell high," he says with a smirk.

Unlike the dozens of sellers who have purchased a booth and are required by law to run background checks on buyers, Faden has it easy. He can meet his customers in the parking lot and complete the transaction without any restrictions. The skinny-jeans-clad Miami Dade College student with a hipster mustache is one of several sellers unloading outside the Fuchs Pavilion.

"We're having record crowds," organizer Victor Bean says. "We're getting approximately 800 to 1,000 people an hour."

Though hard data on actual gun sales is scarce, it's clear Florida has been a seller's market since Newtown. One measure is the number of background check requests received by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), and those numbers have doubled in the past three months. From January 1 through 29, the FDLE performed 108,082 checks, compared to 55,220 in 2012 and 50,387 in 2011. In December alone, there were 131,103 checks — the highest ever in a single month. Close to 800,000 people requested checks to buy guns last year. That's 200,000 more requests than in 2011.

What's more, the state department of licensing and agriculture issued and renewed 97,871 concealed weapons permits, bringing the total number to 2.3 million people since 1987. There are 233,580 concealed weapons permit holders in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties.

Anecdotally, sellers such as Dave Johnson of Johnson's Firearms in Wynwood say they can't even restock inventory. "The AR-15 is the number-one-selling firearm," he says. "Ever since Obama and Feinstein began talking about a new ban, the price of the AR has jumped 100 percent."

There's little question why people like Johnson and Faden have jumped at the opportunity: Capitalism, baby!

"Due to the backlash of the mass killing in Connecticut and all the gun legislation, people are afraid they won't be able to get the guns they'd like to purchase," Bean says.

It was a similar scene the previous week at the Suncoast Fort Lauderdale Gun Show inside the War Memorial Auditorium, where the line to get in stretched into the parking lot. (That's despite recent protests by people such as former mayoral candidate Earl Rynerson, who have demanded the city stop hosting gun shows post-Sandy Hook.)

Standard AR-15 models retailed for $900 to $1,000 last year, Johnson says. Today they cost between $2,000 and $4,000. That price-gouging extends to gun accessories and ammo too. High-capacity magazines that hold up to 30 bullets that sold for $30 to $40 now fetch between $300 and $400 on eBay. "A box of 420 rounds of .556-caliber bullets used to be $200," Johnson says. "Now it's $800."

Why are the buyers so rabid? Just ask Manny Vasquez, a 44-year-old Hialeah resident who purchased his first AR-15 two years after the first ban expired. He visited Bean's gun show to pick up a slimmer, more modern version known as the ACR, made by Bushmaster Firearms — the company that made Lanza's primary weapon. Vasquez paid $3,100 for a rifle that sold for a third of that cost six months ago.

Vasquez, who works at a Coral Gables software firm, decided to get a new gun after watching Obama's January news conference supporting an assault weapons ban.

"I don't feel I should be held responsible for the actions of a mentally ill person," Vasquez says. "I have the right to defend myself against the government or anyone else."

Another buyer, who wanted to be identified only by his first name, Joshua, put down 18 Benjamin Franklins on a Bushmaster XM-15 rifle that retailed for $950 pre-Newtown. An impish 24-year-old Miami Shores native with floppy brown hair, Joshua had been wavering for six months.

"I did my research," he says. "An AR-style rifle is a better defensive firearm than a 12-gauge shotgun. It is a lot easier to train with an AR too. Once I heard about the ban, I didn't want to wait anymore."


The Enthusiasts

As the sun sets over Trail Glades Sport Shooting Range on January 17, black smoke and the acrid odor of spent gunpowder fills the air. The crack of gunfire echoes throughout the park, and Sean Yamuni calmly raises the scope of his AR-15 to his left eye. He fires off ten rounds. Not one misses the square target 25 yards away. His precision is all the more remarkable considering he has no right arm to steady the rifle.

A South Miami resident with a scruffy goatee, Yamuni practices at least twice a week. "I have been doing it at that pace consistently for ten years," he says. "Shooting is a perishable skill if you don't practice."

Every Thursday, Yamuni is surrounded by other gun enthusiasts from all walks of life and across the political spectrum at this swampy, 650-acre range 20 miles west of downtown Miami. They're all united by a passion for the Second Amendment and a fiery attachment to shooting. For Yamuni and his ilk, firing pistols and high-powered rifles is no different from souping up a hot rod or casting a deep-sea line for marlin. Semiautomatic rifles are fun to shoot, period.

"It is an American pastime," he says. "It is a skill you can hone and be good at if you take the time to practice."

Yamuni and the predominantly male shooters who practice at Trail Glades are part of a thriving subculture of recreational gunslingers who compete in statewide contests hosted by more than 40 gun and rifle clubs. In Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach, at least seven clubs hold competitions every weekend, primarily at Markham Park in Sunrise. The largest club, the Tropical Sport Shooting Association, averages 200 members, says its president, Roger Zimmerman. Another group, the Sawgrass Rifle Club, has 55 members who shoot AR-15s, says president John Wiles.

Yamuni came to embrace gun culture after a turbulent childhood. In 1980, a year after he was born, he survived a car accident that forced doctors to amputate his right arm above the elbow. He grew up an only child in a single-parent household.

At Columbus High, Yamuni became a history buff. "The Constitution really resonates with me," he says. "I believe the people who wrote it are smarter than me, so I don't want anyone to trample it."

During his senior year, a classmate's uncle took them to Trail Glades. It was the first time he gripped the cold steel of a handgun. "It was a Heckler & Koch semiautomatic pistol," Yamuni remembers. "It was totally a whole new world."

He joined the National Rifle Association when he was 18, after he purchased his first firearm, a bolt-action hunting rifle. Upon graduating from high school, he enrolled at Miami Dade College and started his first business, a fish tank store. During the real estate boom between 2001 and 2007, Yamuni flipped houses with a friend. In 2008, a year after the market tanked, he opened a gun store in a Pinecrest shopping center.

"Initially I didn't like the AR-15," Yamuni says. "It is a hard rifle to manipulate... Over the past five years, it's really grown on me."

Unlike the AK-47, the AR-15 has a platform that can be switched up in a variety of ways, including firing different caliber bullets and changing the barrel from long to short. The rifle, far from a terrifying weapon of mass destruction, is a testament to American ingenuity, Yamuni argues.

Though Yamuni closed his shop in 2011, he boasts a personal armory of more than 15 rifles. He's become a decent sniper too. This past October 25, he placed third among 18 shooters in a short-barrel rifle competition at Markham Park. In July, he finished fifth in a field of 54.

Every Thursday evening, Yamuni meets with other enthusiasts at Trail Glades for a training session. The crowd is all-male, with the exception of a lone petite blonde. Many of the men are entrepreneurs like Yamuni, who now owns a firm that buys land and then flips it to oil companies. His buddy Suleiman Yousef owns a mixed martial arts gym. There's also a wedding and fashion photographer, a financial planner, a health-care executive, and a franchise restaurant owner named Ric Friedberg.

"I started getting into guns a year-and-a-half ago," Friedberg says. "I injured my left shoulder playing golf. I was sitting on my couch doing nothing one day when a buddy of mine took my ass to the range. Since my right arm was OK, I could shoot, he said."

The man who introduced Friedberg to firearms is a burly strawberry-blond 50-year-old financial planner named Bill, who didn't want to give his last name. Bill and Friedberg travel 33 miles from Weston to Trail Glades every Thursday. Born and raised in Hialeah in the '60s, Bill owned his first shotgun when he was 12. In addition to an AR-15 and multiple handguns, he is the proud owner of a MAC-11, a submachine gun that can strafe 950 rounds per minute and required a six-month background check to buy. Asked why he needs such a deadly device, Bill explains, "Because I can legally own it, and I had the funds to buy it."

It's easy to demonize Yamuni and his crew as gun nuts for embracing the kind of weapons that have led to so many massacres in America. But outside the range, he's no different from the average Miamian. He recently married his girlfriend of six years, who works for the South Beach office of a national modeling agency. He drinks at hipster watering holes such as Gramps and the Corner. He has a chocolate French bulldog named Biggie Smalls.

"I believe in gay marriage and I am pro-choice," Yamuni professes. "Everybody deserves equality, even gun owners. We should not be pigeonholed as all being crazy, right-wing gun nuts."


The Victims

Shortly before 9:45 p.m. on October 3, 2011, Ladarius Evans was leaning against the Plexiglas partition of a bus stop on Miami Gardens Drive when a Nissan sedan screeched to a halt in front of the 20-year-old. A dreadlocked man popped the passenger-side door and aimed an AK-47.

Evans leapt to his feet and bolted across three lanes, but an oncoming bus blocked his path. Full metal jacket rounds whizzed past. Two ripped through his upper left leg and exited his right leg. Bleeding, he staggered into the parking lot of the Miami Job Corps Center and collapsed.

"I was devastated," recalls his mother, Gwendolyn, describing the phone call that her son had been shot. "I screamed and rushed over to the scene. By the time I got there, he had already been airlifted to Jackson."

Evans's story should sound familiar to anyone who has spent time in Miami's poor, traditionally black neighborhoods, where violence by assault rifles doesn't attract the same attention as Lanza's massacre but fells dozens of young residents a year.

In fact, Evans was just one of 27 people under the age of 21 shot with an AK-47 or similar rifle in Miami-Dade during the past 16 months. Eight of those victims died. During the same time, at least 34 adults were mowed down by rifles in Miami Gardens and unincorporated Northwest Miami-Dade. Fifteen of those victims didn't survive. In Miami's District 5, which includes Overtown, Liberty City, and Brownsville, six out of 20 people shot by assault weapons in 2012 died. There were no assault rifle attacks in the city's four other districts.

Those aren't statistics you'll hear often on the news, though, in part because local law enforcement agencies don't break down shootings by weapon type and in part because — like Evans — a majority of the victims are black with a criminal record. (New Times compiled these numbers through news clips and Miami-Dade Police Department releases.)

"On my block alone, there have been six shootings in the past year," says Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, who lives in Liberty City. "One involved an assault weapon."

Spence-Jones, her husband, and their two little boys were on their way to a Sunday church service last year when they saw a car crash into a light post near the corner of NW 55th Street and Eighth Avenue. "It had been shot up 17 times," she says. "Two young men stumbled out of the car, bleeding everywhere. They died that day." The double homicide was never reported on the news.

Ladarius Evans was no exception to that tired mainstream media rule. His story represents both sides of the violent ties between poor black neighborhoods and assault rifle crimes.

Born on May 2, 1991, Evans grew up looking after his three younger brothers and a younger sister in Brownsville, a neighborhood adjacent to Liberty City. His mom says she tried to keep her kids out of trouble while holding down two jobs. "They had curfews and chores around the house," the 41-year-old Denny's hostess says. "I did my best to make sure they didn't get caught up in that street life."

As a boy, Evans played running back for the Overtown Rattlers Optimist Club and made the honor roll at Horace Mann Middle School. But during his senior year at Miami Edison High, he began to drift. On January 26, 2009, he was arrested for stealing a car and later served 30 days in jail. That July, he was convicted of misdemeanor disorderly conduct. Four months later, a felony grand theft bust followed. He pleaded guilty and served a 60-day stint.

Then, on December 17, 2010, Evans and three friends were driving around the parking lot of the Falls shopping center in Palmetto Bay when Miami-Dade police officers approached. Evans tried to run away, and later admitted he "got nervous and hid his firearm in a big condom box in the back seat," according to a police report. Officers recovered a silver-and-black revolver and charged him with illegally carrying a concealed firearm. Prosecutors didn't pursue the charges.

In early 2011, his mom convinced him to move with her out of Brownsville and into a three-bedroom house in a quiet residential area of Miami Gardens. The change of scenery helped.

"In Liberty City, there was just too much going on," she says. "There was a shooting every day."

The night he was shot, Evans had walked to the bus stop to wait for his girlfriend, who was on her way home from work. His assailant caught him completely by surprise.

Miraculously, Evans survived. The bullets didn't hit an artery. After four days, he was released from Jackson. While he was recuperating, he made a startling revelation. Hours before he was shot, his assailant confronted him outside a nearby convenience store and flashed the AK-47. Evans also told his mom that his brother Keonte had an ongoing fight with the shooter's friends.

She relayed the information to Miami Gardens Det. Joseph Zellner, but police couldn't track down Evans's attacker without his name. The break came November 4, 2011, when Evans read a front-page story in the Miami Times about a 20-year-old who had been charged in a shooting at Bunche Park. Evans recognized the shooter. When he met with Zellner, he held up a copy and said, "This is the guy who shot me."

In addition to the four attempted murder charges for the Bunche Park shooting, Tyrone Vincent Bivins was also charged with the attempted murder of Evans. It's not clear where Bivins got his rifle, but because he is a convicted felon, he couldn't have purchased it legally.

Like thousands of other criminals, he more than likely circumvented Florida's lax gun laws. Many use straw buyers. "They have their girlfriends who don't have criminal records going to the gun shows and pawn shops," Spence-Jones says.

A veteran Miami homicide detective, who asked not to be identified because he's not authorized to comment on the story, confirmed Spence-Jones's claim.

"Any young lady who is at least 18 can walk into a gun show and buy whatever AR-15 or AK-47 her boyfriend wants," he says. "Criminals are also getting rifles by committing burglaries. That is the MO for a lot of the gangs in the city."

Last November, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics issued a report declaring that 1.4 million firearms were stolen in burglaries between 2005 and 2010. At least 80 percent of those weapons have not been recovered.

While Bivins sat in county lockup, Evans recovered from his leg wounds. But he couldn't escape his fate.

On November 12, seven months after his 21st birthday, Evans, his 18-year-old brother Quavon, and their 18-year-old friend Torrey Amica were driving on NW 43rd Street near 11th Avenue just before midnight. A gray sedan pulled up next to them, and without warning, someone inside sprayed all three young men with a high-powered rifle.

Quavon and Torrey were transported to Jackson, but they did not sustain any life-threatening injuries. Evans was pronounced dead at the scene.

"To know that someone will pull a gun and shoot somebody just for looking at them funny is horrible," his mom says. "Even though we were around it every day, I never thought gun violence would destroy my family."


The Big Picture

On the one-month anniversary of the Newtown tragedy, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado broke ranks with the Republican Party to join Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Flanked by Carol Gardner, whose son was killed with an AK-47 in Liberty City last April, Regalado stood on the front steps of Miami City Hall to announce a new campaign against gun violence.

"I believe that it is important that we send this message," Regalado said.

The mayor's move is just one of dozens at the local, state, and federal levels seeking to curb Florida's lucrative, fascinating, and deadly love affair with firearms. But despite rising public support — 51 percent polled by CNN last month favor tighter controls — and a big push from President Obama, it looks increasingly probable that the status quo will remain.

The same day Feinstein presented her new assault weapons ban bill, CBS News reported she doesn't have the 60 votes from her colleagues to get it passed in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Even Democratic senators who crafted the 1994 ban, including Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Max Baucus of Montana, won't get behind her. In the GOP-dominated House, passage is even less likely.

There is a push on the state level in Florida to change gun laws, including a bill sponsored by Tallahassee Democratic Rep. Alan B. Williams to repeal Florida's Stand Your Ground law. But Florida's capitol remains dominated by the GOP, which is unlikely to back any reforms.

"Of course I support the ban, but the NRA is so powerful I don't believe it will pass," Spence-Jones says of the federal proposal, which won the support of the Miami City Commission in a recent resolution.

Local leaders have taken a few substantive steps since Sandy Hook. The Miami Police Department operates one of the nation's most aggressive gun buyback programs, in which the city exchanges Miami Heat tickets and supermarket vouchers for firearms. During two gun buybacks conducted in January, the city collected 209 guns, including two AK-47s and a Ruger Mini-14 sniper rifle.

And surprisingly, even many gun advocates — such as Corbato and Yousef — agree that some gun control measures make sense.

"I do believe we should have universal background checks," Corbato says. "You should not be able to meet a buyer in a Denny's parking lot and sell him a gun without knowing who he is. I think a large percentage of gun crimes are a result of sales like that."

Adds Yousef: "The national registry and universal background checks don't bother me, but everything else does."

Gwendolyn Evans, though, is not so sure tighter controls on firearms will prevent guns from falling into the hands of thugs. "Knowing the streets, I guarantee criminals will find a way around it," she says.

No gun ban or universal background check will bring justice for her slain son. Miami police still don't have any leads on who killed Ladarius. Bivins is still awaiting trial for the first attempt on his life.

"Every day, I feel something is missing in my life," Gwendolyn says. "My family has been broken and torn apart."

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51 comments
ohthedude
ohthedude

Please try to refrain from using opinion and emotion when writing a piece about something that is so near and dear to hearts of many. Your first paragraph alone is overly dramatic and inacurate. You cannot shoot steel targets at trail glades unless your in the 50 not 100 yard range next door that is private for law enforcement or gun clubs. The Ar15 recoil is not explosive nor is it heavy 6-8 lbin any way, this is why 18 year old 100lb women in the military can shoot its near cousin, the M16, with ease.  Being an AR15 and other firearms gunsmith myself, your section on the assembly performed by Mr. Corbato was. If you dont know just write that he assembled the varios parts into a rifle.  If your gonna quote statistics you need to really break them down. More people are killed by handguns than rifles period. Of all these murders, how many were with stolen guns?

cunhajo
cunhajo

... not a bad article, although IHMO, somewhat slanted towards the anti-gun mania sweeping the nation. This in spite of the fact that most guns used in crimes are acquired illegally, despite all of the gun laws already in place, and the statements, even by the victims mother, that she doubts new gun laws will prevent criminals from getting even high power semiautomatic weapons like the one used in the slaying of her son. So why back new laws when the ones we have aren't being enforced strenuously, and when it is obvious it won't have the intended effect? Why not enforce the laws we have and get tough on straw buyers (and sellers)? Why not follow up on the MANY denied instant checks that no one ever follows up on? And not to state the obvious but how about keeping violent felons in prison where they belong? And certainly there is no sense in disarming law abiding citizens who's only hope for defending themselves apparently is to stay armed and learn to use their weapons well.  Gun control is a purely political agenda intended to make an misinformed public think politicians give a damn when in fact they don't, or they would deal with the real issues that cause the violence they say they want to end. Otherwise, how do you explain the fact that while gun ownership has climbed in unprecedented numbers in the last few years, the violent crime rate has declined just as dramatically? Don't beleive the hype.

BuckTheSystem
BuckTheSystem

Assault Rifles were banned in 1986.  You have to have a Class III to buy or possess an assault rifle, idiot.

Stan_Mute
Stan_Mute

Here's a quick fix. Instead of all the background checks and registries, how about a quick test of reading and math. To be fair, baseline the test at about the GED level. Illiterates have no business with dangerous weapons of any kind so this can be extended to anything with a sharp edge or pointy end on it.

This proposal would, overnight, eliminate about 90% of the thugs with guns obtained either through a homeboy not yet convicted of a felony or through a girlfriend willing to do anything for a guy who will overlook her morbid obesity.

Imagine. Liberty City would soon resemble Boca Raton. North Miami Beach would become Coral Gables. Overtown would transmogrify into Weston.

Why is it we continue to ignore the 800lb gorilla in the room when discussing crime? No matter what else we do, we must NOT allow obvious FACTS or TRUTH to enter our discussion.

And while we are whining about what inanimate tools can do in the wrong hands, let's take a look at something MUCH more dangerous to the average law-abiding citizen: automobiles. Automobiles kill FAR more people and infinitely more innocent people than do guns in the wrong hands. And, like guns, they are 100% inert and harmless machines until Stupid begins to operate them. What's the common feature then in the death and destruction? The steel used in constructing them? The corrosion resistant coatings? Or maybe, just maybe, it's Stupid himself?

None of this carnage will end until and unless we face the CAUSE. And here's a wild pet theory I've concocted - Stupid is responsible for the VAST majority of all innocent victims of gunplay, automotive injury, etc.

thatguy
thatguy

did any of you read the article?
There are definitely some errors in termanology but he did state early in the article that and AR-15 is not an assault rifle.
He seemed to show both sides of the story.
A lot of hate from people whom I really don't think read the story.

hlain9152
hlain9152

Oh, and by the way Francisco: The guy assembling the AR-15's was screwing the barrel into the UPPER receiver, the magazine port is in the LOWER receiver, they are two different parts. It's doubtful if he's producing ANY of the parts. A lot of small manufacturers assemble AR-15's from parts manufactured by larger companies. I don't know if the long cylindrical component on the end of the barrel is what you are referring to as the "Barrel shroud" but the only thing I know of that looks like that is a sound supressor (sometimes wrongly referred to as a "silencer.") If he is manufacturing and installing sound supressors on AR-15's he had better be registering them with the Federal Government since supressors are regulated in the same way as machine guns or other guns capable of full-auto operation. (ie: REAL assault rifles) And what the hell's with the motorcycles in the background? Is this guy running a gun shop or a motorcycle shop? Does he have the necessary licenses and permits to manufacture firearms? Couldn't you find a real gun manufacturer to interview instead of some fly-by-night operator?

Cuco3
Cuco3

While Liberals continue to attack our Constitution, illegal arms traffickers are excited about all the business that will be headed their way (just like prohibition did for organized crime and the 40 year drug war did for drug cartels).

And criminals also benefit because they will be the only ones with access to assault rifles because of their connections to the illegal arms traffickers.

And politicians love it because people will think they're heroes and elect them into office.

We've seen how great prohibition worked. We've seen how successful the 40 yr drug war has been in reducing drug use in America. But Gun Control will be different?

Isn't it funny how Americans repeat the same  mistakes over and over and over?

hlain9152
hlain9152

The lies start with the third sentence of the article when the so-called author talks about the "explosive recoil" of the AR-15 In the next sentence he talks about the "heavy weapon." There is almost no recoil from an AR-15 and it is far from a "heavy" weapon. The lies and exaggerations go on from there. I have to wonder if this clown even fired the rifle as he says. Probably too wimpy and metrosexual to even try.

Bigdic
Bigdic

Florida has to be one of the most ignorant backward states in the union. Red necks in pickup trucks with a 2nd grade education yet all have rifle racks & packing. Blacks, Cubans, Mexican illegals all looking for an open window or an unlocked door. What a sh*t hole Fla has become. The old people who scammed up north & relocated south want everybody to now obey the law. Hypocrite Mother F...kr's. Turn out the lights, cut off the state @ the panhandle .

run.randrand
run.randrand

( HAD TO CLEAR THE "POP-UP-JIG-MUGGER"" POP UP TARGET THAT KEEPS ANNOYING--YA KNOW-"BLACK LEX LUTHER"!)MY-MY-MY-IT'S WEDNESDAY, BOYZZ AND GIRLZZ-AND NOT A MENTION ON YAHOO BLOG OF THE DEAD CORPSES ALLLLL OVER WEST KENDAL OF THE FAMILY THAT SHOT IT OUT LIKE BONNIE AND CLYDE WITH THE COPS LAST NIGHT! COPS WON---THIS TIME---BUT BET ON LI'L DEBBIE WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ WAVING THE ARTICLE BEFORE THE LEGISLATORS IN FLORIDA, AND BLEATING FOR MASSIVE SEIZURES OF "ASSAULT TYPE WEAPONS" AND HIGH-CAP AMMO MAGAZINES! ONLY PROBLEM IS---AS WE KNOW-EVEN BONNIE AND CLYDE AND THE OLD STYLE CHICAGO GANGSTERS USED WEAPONS THAT  WERE THREATENING.....NOTHING NEW FOR GANGSTERS.AS THE GOVERNMENT MOVES TO TAX AT EVERY TURN, AND CHEAT THE PUBLIC OF GOODS AND SERVICES..THIS ENMITY WILL BOIL OVER TO POPULOUS REVOLUTION--FAR DIFFERENT THEN "JUST A FEW ISOLATED GANGSTERS RUNNING AMOK. KNOW THE DIFFERENTIATION---THE GOVERNMENT REALLY FEARS---Y-O-U!!!!!

LawAbidingGunOwner
LawAbidingGunOwner

Here's a fact for the story. 

Average number of people killed in a mass shooting when stopped by police:  18.25

Average number of people killed in a mass shooting when stopped by civlians:  2.2

SAVE LIVES.  KEEP CIVILIANS ARMED!

LawAbidingGunOwner
LawAbidingGunOwner

Its funny how elemtary writers, that are clearly anti-gun, forget to put in the facts that really matter. Like how many Violent Crimes, Rapes, Burgleries, etc; are prevented every year by law-abiding gun carrying citizens. They will see it is about 800,000 - 2,500,000 depending on the study you read.

Also, where is the statistic showing the crimes that happen in Miami vs those in L.A. or Chicago, that have ths strictest gun laws in the country.

I've only gotten two things from this article, that Francisco Alavarado is a Second Rate Writer and that Mayor Tomas Regalado will not have another term!

drmarkm
drmarkm

chicago 2.7 million residents, about 500 murders 2012; broward county about 1.7 million residents, less than 60 people killed in 2012

chicago has the most draconion gun control measures in the country but leads the pack in murder rate

stop trying to ban guns and be anti gun; take guns away from the gang bangers, mentally ill

bobsolla
bobsolla

shall not be infringed!if you don`t like it leave this country!

teebonicus
teebonicus

How many more times must the ill-informed be reminded that there are three key precedents that prohibit the government from banning semiautomatic firearms?

U.S. v. Miller - Protected arms are those "in common use" that "have some reasonable relationship to the . . . efficiency of a well-regulated militia".

D.C. v. Heller - "Held:

"1. The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes[.] . . . (f) . . . United States v. Miller, 307 U. S. 174 , does not limit the right to keep and bear arms to militia purposes, but rather limits the type of weapon to which the right applies to those used by the militia, i.e., those in common use for lawful purposes. Pp. 47–54." - DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA v. HELLER (No. 07-290) 478 F. 3d 370, affirmed.

McDonald v. City of Chicago - "We therefore hold that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Second Amendment right recognized in Heller. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings. It is so ordered." - MCDONALD ET AL. v. CITY OF CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, ET AL.

These are not mere inconveniences for the writer's argument, they are fatal to it.

brentondadams
brentondadams

This article is EVERYTHING thats wrong with media coverage on this issue, and so many others.

I am not going to go through and refute all fallacies,  contradictions, misiformation and outright lies, but they are glaringly obvious.

Seriously, five minutes of research would clear 90% of them up. But obviously this 'journalist' couldnt be bothered.

What a joke and what a shame. This is why 'gun control' is DOA. Because most everyone thats even seen a gun on TV can see right through this load of ignorant and incorrect claptrap.

So keep it up! You are why Floridas laws arent changing anytime soon.

brentondadams
brentondadams

What a load of utter rubbish. Does an editor even bother to look these articles over?

It must be hard to be a 'journalist' these days....

So much garbage so little time...

zgennaro
zgennaro

Read the first page, but there are too many errors to continue. First, these are not "assuault rifles". Assault rifles are fully automatic, these weapons look like machine guns but are actually not. Also, Fl is not that gun friendly. Many states were already "stand your ground" states before Fl passed their explicit law and coined the term "stand your ground". Many states let you carry openly without a license. Fl does not, even with a permit. Hammer's statement that gun rights are a civil rights issue is hyperbolic? Many people feel that way, Mr Alvarado. 

ohthedude
ohthedude

Part 2: all would not fit in one post.

Hey why dont we compare alcohol related deaths to firearms deaths? Why dont we just ban alcohol, it kills more people daily than firearms. If a drunk driver gets in his truck and hits a bus full of o say 20 kids, kills them all, what are we going to ban then? There are just to many damn points that in the article that are plain wrong. Your are doing the topic and your readers a diservice by not REPORTING facts. BTW what exactly is a "deadly firearm" i am not familiar with undeadly firearms myself DRAMA DRAMA DRAMA. If you want to see what a club does on the shooting sports side feel free to contact me unless your gonna do another dramatic opinion puff piece..then dont bother.

hlain9152
hlain9152

@BuckTheSystem Don't bother telling Francisco facts. It only confuses him, which in turn pisses him off. Then he'll start calling you names like "punk", and "Fake assed mercenary" and "Poseur" because he realizes that there are people that know more than he does (very probably quite a few) and it hurts his little machismo bullshit spic feelings.

hlain9152
hlain9152

@nickyharts221133 Damn! A really, honest -to-God Ford Focus! Wow! I am so impressed. I wish I could afford a genuine Ford Focus! That is so cool! What did that cheap little motherfucker cost again? $19-20,000? Why didn't they buy a REAL, whole car instead of part of one?

falvarado10
falvarado10 writer

@hlain9152 do you really think some guy with no federal licenses is going to let a reporter inside his illegal shop? Of course he does. Feel free look him up. Nebulous Ordinance. You obviously only want to twist shit up so you can brag about your "extensive knowledge" on firearms. But you have no credibility because your just an anonymous Internet troll who is taking a break from wanking off to porn.

Bigdic
Bigdic

@Cuco3 So your excuse of an answer is to just open it up to everyone & tax it.

falvarado10
falvarado10 writer

@hlain9152 come by the Miami New Times and find out how wimpy and metrosexual I am you fake ass mercenary

cunhajo
cunhajo

@mckernan_b  Just leave then. Its still a (somewhat) free country. Sure you can find sone cheap real estate in Chicago or Detroit.

hlain9152
hlain9152

@mckernan_b Did you ever think that the "Red Necks"  are packing because they don't want to be killed or robbed by the blacks or wetbacks? I don't consider myself a redneck, I have a college degree, no pickup, and no rifle rack but I AM "packing" and will continue to do so. If that makes me a Redneck then so be it. At least I'll be a live Redneck and not a dead one.

Cuco3
Cuco3

@LawAbidingGunOwner Every time I turn on the news and read about a tragic event involving crime, I always wonder to myself: "how different would the situation be if the victim were carrying a weapon so they could protect themselves."

Keep up the good fight, LawAbidingGunOwner. We need more people like us to remind others that guns are meant to protect.

Bigdic
Bigdic

@LawAbidingGunOwner Stop the flow of guns everywhere & you stop crime. The criminals will suffer & the law abiding citizens must sacrifice. Its worth it in the end....No body needs an assault / machine gun, a f......k'n hundred clip mag. WTF is wrong with you Jackasses?

ma3polo
ma3polo

@drmarkm It's not that black and white. Any anti-gun person can say,  Look at a city like New Orleans, and then look at a city like NYC. Which state has the city with the highest murder rate, and which state has the strictest gun laws? But does that mean establishing strict gun laws will be successful in reducing gun crimes because of the disparities of murder rate between NO and NYC? NOPE!!! Not anymore than suggesting that establishing stricter gun laws don't work because of the disparities between Chicago and Broward County. C'mon now. Most of the cities and states with the highest per capita murder rates are in the South. ALOT more shootings of passion happen down here. That's not to say that stricter gun laws are gonna solve everything, because that's not a guaruntee. But to suggest more guns will reduce crime, isn't necesarily true either.

Cuco3
Cuco3

@drmarkm Great post. It's funny how pro-gun control politicians don't point out the fact that gun control hasn't worked at all in American cities with the strictest policies on gun control. Ignoring facts is something that plagues the minds of Americans and puts politicians in office.

hlain9152
hlain9152

@drmarkm You don't think that Obama is ever going to admit that the REAL problem lies within his main voting bloc do you?

Bigdic
Bigdic

@bobsolla So its my way or the highway eh?....Pretty one sided  eh chump.

falvarado10
falvarado10 writer

@teebonicus do you even know how to read? The article is making the argument that gun bans do not and will not work.

Bigdic
Bigdic

@teebonicus F......k U & UR 2nd amendment peckerhead. 2nd amendment was instituted when we had no standing army to protect us nor was is stipulated that assault weapons vs muzzle shot. Get off your phony kick ok dick head. Your 2nd amendment rights end with my right to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness in a no violent environment.

hlain9152
hlain9152

@falvarado10 Maybe you should switch places with the guy reporting on rip-offs occurring during gay lap dances (gag!) He didn't seem to be very comfortable with his assignment and by your own admission you found shooting the big bad gun to be terrifying.

hlain9152
hlain9152

@falvarado10 Who the hell said anything about being a mercenary or even being in the military? I'm just someone who knows how to shoot and has been doing so for a long time. It's pretty obvious  from your half-assed article that you know nothing about guns, you admitted it for all practical purposes. If you're going to write an article write one about something you know. I would suggest women's fashions, interior decorating, or the lives of the Kardasians. A little sensitive aren't you?

Bigdic
Bigdic

@cunhajo @mckernan_b  Hey ballsucker Nigger, Take a gun & point it up your ugly black spick ass & give yourself a headache. All you mother fucker coons are as useless as tit's on a Bull.

falvarado10
falvarado10 writer

@hlain9152 you are a poseur and a punk. You talk a lot of smack, but I bet you are a coward who would run at the first sign of a fire fight.

Cuco3
Cuco3

@mckernan_b Go read up on prohibition and the Drug War then come back and tell us how great a job it did in stopping the flow of alcohol and drugs. Then answer this question: do you really think gun control will be different?

hlain9152
hlain9152

@mckernan_b @LawAbidingGunOwner  The fact of the matter is the criminals will NOT suffer because they are CRIMINALS and they are not about to worry about compliance with new gun laws any more than they did the old ones. The law abiding citizens are the ONLY ones that will sacrifice anything. The guns in question are NOT machine guns. Why should I lose my 2nd amendment rights for what some POS black gangbanger does in Chicago ot Miami?

hlain9152
hlain9152

@GlockBoy @LawAbidingGunOwner Funny that someone calling themselves "GlockBoy would be critical of someone supporting gun ownership. Makes me think that you're either a liar, trying to be clever and failing badly,  or you just can't read worth a damn. By the way, considering the writer's rambling, amateurish writing style and his total lack of professionalism, I don't think misspelling a few words is very important. After all, this is the Miami NewTimes News here, not exactly a bastion of top quality journalism.

hlain9152
hlain9152

@mckernan_b   Hell mckernan_b, it does seem like you're not too happy here. Maybe you should try somewhere else. I would suggest Syria, Iran, Egypt, The Sudan, Mali; Columbia or Mexico maybe. See how your "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness" hold up there. Mexico has some of the strictest gun laws there are. They have VERY strict laws against ownership of any "military" type of firearms. Ask the thousands of victims of the cartels how well that's working. Oh, wait a minute, you can't, they are all dead, shot, decapitated, and/or buried in mass graves.

hlain9152
hlain9152

@falvarado10 Damn! Are you menustrating or something?  I would guess and say that he knows how to read at least as well as you since his writing is much better than yours and he appears to have actually done some meaningful research. Why are you such a sensitive, nasty tempered little flamer? Didn't you learn anything about interacting with the public in Journalism class or whatever brief exposure to education you might have, Cosmotology School maybe? Even as a hairdresser you would have had to deal with the public.

hlain9152
hlain9152

@mckernan_b Are you falvarado 10's significant other and you two are having a cat fight or what the hell is wrong with you? You criticize teebonicus and yet you write like illiterate white trash. If you think the "environment" will be all warm and fuzzy after guns are banned you're an idiot. The old, worn-out cliche "When guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns" may be a cliche but it's still absolutely true. Take the guns away from legal owners and you will see chaos. The only thing keeping the thugs, gang bangers, and drug dealers from taking over is the knowledge that they are out-gunned and out-numbered. Reverse that situation and guess what? There aren't nearly enough cops. What's the next thing? Martial Law and the military intervenes? That will pretty well end your right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Do some research and find out the REAL story on how pleasant it is to live in the UK since they banned possession of almost all wepons.

Cuco3
Cuco3

@mckernan_b @teebonicus The 2nd amendment protects your right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness by making sure our government and politicians don't overstep their boundaries, which is exactly what they've been doing since the George W Bush era.

Answer this: what's stopping the constitution from being just another piece of paper other than the 2nd amendment?

Read up on why the 2nd amendment exists. (even though I just explained it to you).

hlain9152
hlain9152

@falvarado10 And by the way, by your own admission most of  the shootings in Miami happened in black neighborhoods. So what's the problem with my comment? YOU, on the other hand, should watch what you say. If you insult the brutha's by placing the blame on them, even if it is right, your career at the Miami NewTimes will be short. Uncle Luther's not going to put up with that.

hlain9152
hlain9152

@falvarado10 Could be, don't know, never been in one. Where did I "talk a lot of smack?" If I ever do get in a "firefight" at least I'll be able to hit what I aim at unlike you. "Poseur?" After reading your joke of an article it's pretty clear who the poseur is. "Punk?" considering your degree of professionalism it' s also clear who the punk is. What's the matter, did that reference to "wetbacks" hurt your sensitive little feelings? Get over it.

 
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