It can almost be counted on like a clock: the latest grim report of a mass shooting in the United States. Saturday’s massacre of eight – including children – in Texas followed a week of gun slaughter.
Key Biscayne is set to join other municipalities around the nation in recognizing National Gun Violence Awareness Day on June 2. The mayor got behind the initiative after being approached by Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America.
“A lot of mayors are doing the same thing and if you look at it, it’s a very balanced and very good approach to trying to reduce gun violence,” said Mayor Joe Rasco, who will be giving a presentation of the proclamation at the Village Council meeting Tuesday.
The proclamation partly reads: “support for the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens goes hand-in-hand with keeping
guns away from people with dangerous histories.”
A proclamation is one of the few remaining things Key Biscayne and other Florida communities can do on the topic of gun safety under a strict preemption statute the state Legislature enacted in 2011 designed to severely restrict local authority to regulate firearms.
How prevalent is gun violence in America? Before this story could be published, a gunman in Moultrie, Ga., shot three and then came Saturday’s tragedy, a horrible reminder that Americans are not safe in schools, churches, malls – even ringing a doorbell or accidentally pulling in the wrong driveway.
The Associated Press keeps track of shootings of fatalities of four or more but it can’t keep up. If you include the Georgia and Texas multiple murders, then it is up to 21 this year.
Invest in Local News for Your Town. Your Gift is tax-deductible
Jane Torres, a member of Moms Demand Action, asked Rasco to get behind the Gun Violence Awareness Day. She started advocating for gun safety legislation after 17 students were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Valentine’s Day 2018.
She said June 2 will be a day of remembrance, “to honor loved ones who have lost their lives or have been maimed.”
While the loss of lives is devastating – more than 14,500 so far just this year – Torres said it is important to remember those who have been wounded through gun violence.
“We don’t pay enough attention to those who have been maimed,” she said. “The care of all the people who are alive but can’t walk, who can’t see. It’s an economic problem too. It destroys lives.”
She noted the students who survived the Parkland massacre only to to commit suicide, racked by survivor’s guilt. “It has far-reaching ramifications..
Florida, though, seems to be going in the opposite direction of gun safety. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed on April 3 a permitless carry law that allows people to carry a concealed firearm without any requirement. Key Bicayne’s elected representatives, both Republicans, split on the measure. State Rep. Vicki Lopez opposed it, but State Sen. Alexis Calatayud supported it.
Torres’ group called it, “a very dangerous law.”
There is growing bipartisan support among the electorate for gun safety laws. A Fox News poll found that 80% or more people surveyed wanted to require criminal checks for a purchase of a gun, strengthening existing gun laws and raising the legal age to purchase a firearm to 21.
“Our problem lies in the legislatures around the country and those people that we have been electing,” Torres said.
Support for those measures were nearly equal among Republicans and Democrats. The two sides differ on whether to ban assault weapons, like the ones used by killers in masacres at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn; Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.
Torres said there are far too many assault weapons out in the public to make a ban effective. AR-15 sales have gone from less than 2% of all guns manufactured to nearly 25% in three decades.
“Let’s say we ban an assault weapon, they will adapt other weapons to be rapid-fire. But if we ban or limit ammunition, that’ll take care of it,” she said.
The proclamation to be read by Mayor Rasco doesn’t get into calls for legislation. It talks, among other things, about how gun violence is costing Florida taxpayers $876 million a year.
“It is looking at ways to incentivize and get people to reduce gun violence without getting extremely political on either side of the spectrum,” Rasco said.
JOHN PACENTI is the executive editor of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV. You can reach him at [email protected]