Five Scary Facts About Florida Gun Violence in Time for the #MarchForOurLives
Ian Witlen

Five Scary Facts About Florida Gun Violence in Time for the #MarchForOurLives

The March for Our Lives today might go down as the largest single-day gun-control and gun-safety march in American history. Thanks to the efforts of a group of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students, 834 marches and rallies are happening today, and Americans from across the nation have traveled to Washington, D.C., to push back against the country's insanely lax system of gun laws, which let an 18-year-old kid legally buy an AR-15 rifle and then murder 17 South Floridians last month.

In light of the march, some Miami residents might be wondering why the state's gun laws are so insane or what issues they should fight to change. So here's a primer on how Florida turned into the "Gunshine State" thanks to the efforts of the National Rifle Association and a group of perennially misinformed state legislators. 

1. The Florida Legislature is basically under the thumb of one NRA lobbyist.

U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz tried like hell this week to defend the National Rifle Association from scorn after Nikolas Cruz used to an AR-15 rifle to kill 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

"The @NRA is an organization that takes 100% of the blame for the conduct of 0% of its members," Gaetz tweeted.

His argument would be laughably incorrect if he weren't defending an organization that has facilitated gun deaths in Florida and the rest of the nation for decades. Sure, he's technically correct that Cruz was not an NRA member — but that argument is a red herring. NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer has singlehandedly written Florida's gun laws for the past 40 years and has done more than any Florida lawmaker to ensure that pretty much anyone anywhere in Florida can buy whatever kind of gun he or she wants — including a disturbed teen like Cruz. Hammer's influence extends even further too: She influences elections by personally instructing NRA members to vote against pro-gun-control candidates. Lawmakers are terrified of her.

2. In a recent poll, Florida voters overwhelmingly said they wanted an assault-weapons ban.

After Parkland massacre survivors roasted Sen. Marco Rubio like a pig in a caja china at CNN's nationally televised town hall, he took to Twitter to complain that their demands for an outright ban on the military-style assault weapons that helped slaughter 17 people at the school were "well outside the mainstream."

Maybe Rubio meant the idea was outside the mainstream of the NRA donors who have spent millions to keep him in office, because new polling out this afternoon makes it clear that Florida voters are very comfortable with completely keeping weapons of war out of civilian hands.

The poll from Quinnipiac University shows that a full 62 percent of Floridians back a ban on assault weapons; only 33 percent are against the idea.

The rest of the poll reads like the worst fevered nightmares of Marion Hammer, the NRA mega-lobbyist who has turned Florida into a gun-packed hellscape over the past two decades.

The poll shows that 96 percent of voters want universal background checks for all gun sales. Ninety-six percent! You couldn't get 96 percent of Floridians to agree that the Atlantic Ocean is real.

3. Gun violence costs state taxpayers $5 billion per year.

Asking why this country makes it extremely easy for deranged teens to by military-style rifles clearly doesn't persuade politicians to enact basic gun control laws after yet another mass killing. Florida lawmakers, in particular, aren't really moved by appeals to their hearts, morals, or consciences, and it's debatable whether some or any of them even possess those things. Instead, progressives are often forced to couch their requests in economic terms — because the status quo is not only immoral but also costly.

Take, for instance, Florida's gun laws: A new report from the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun control nonprofit formerly known as the Legal Community Against Violence, issued a report this month about the astronomical economic cost of Florida's awful gun violence laws. By the Giffords Center's count, Floridians are blowing more than $5 billion per year in direct costs stemming from gunshot wounds. The center issued the paper in the wake of the Parkland school massacre.

According to the Giffords Center, Florida sees an average of 827 gun-related homicides, 1,538 gun-related suicides, 1,694 nonfatal interpersonal shootings, and 1,773 unintentional shootings a year. Naturally, those incidents force both the state and private companies to expend resources on health-care costs, as well as dispatching emergency responders.

4. The state's "Stand Your Ground" law has been tied to a "sustained increase" in homicides and has been used to exonerate cops who've shot unarmed civilians.

Yesterday the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published an original investigation linking Florida's infamous "Stand Your Ground" law to an "abrupt and sustained" increase in homicides statewide.

"The implementation of Florida’s stand your ground self-defense law was associated with a significant increase in homicides and homicides by firearm, but no change in rates of suicide or suicide by firearm," researchers with JAMA's Internal Medicine publication write.

After Florida's Stand Your Ground law was implemented in 2005, JAMA says, there was an "abrupt and sustained increase in the monthly homicide rate of 24.4 percent" and a 31.6 percent jump in firearm homicides each month.

Importantly, the monthly homicide rate among African-Americans increased 32 percent, from 36 deaths each month to 48.

5. Florida lawmakers apparently think pornography is more dangerous than guns.

Say what you want about Tampa-area state Rep. Ross Spano, but he truly cares about the dangers our children face in the 21st Century. Just six days after Florida was forced to live through one of the most horrific school shootings in American history, in large part because a deranged teen was able to legally buy a military-grade AR-15 rifle in Florida, Spano appeared at the state capitol in Tallahassee and took a principled stand against the greatest danger facing our children today.


That's right. Spano watched Omar Mateen light up the Pulse Nightclub with a semiautomatic rifle in 2016, offered his "prayers" to Parkland victims in a Facebook post, and yet has spent his time post-Parkland focusing on ridding America of consensually filmed videos of people rubbing their genitals on one another for fun instead of banning the sort of assault weapons that are literally tearing American children into pieces. In fact, the Florida House voted 36-to-71 yesterday to kill an assault-weapons ban proposed by Rep. Carlos G. Smith.

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