Last month, a man came into a Key Biscayne restaurant with an AK-47 and threatened the shop owner before being arrested. Unfortunately, it was only a matter of time before we had a semi-automatic, high-capacity weapon brandished on Key Biscayne.
There are already more guns than people in our country – and more than 20 million AR-15-style weapons in circulation in the U.S. These types of weapons can spray up to 45 rounds per minute and are responsible for most of the mass killings in this country.
Florida recently passed a law allowing permitless carry, meaning Floridians can carry concealed weapons without a permit if they met some requirements in state statute. An AK-47 – like possessed by the man arrested on Key Biscayne – is legal in the state if it is deemed semi-automatic.
So, we should not be surprised that such a weapon was allegedly used in an attempted aggravated assault on the Key and we should feel lucky no shots have been fired – so far.
It is human nature to ignore potential dangers unless we are personally touched by a tragedy. That’s why it’s usually survivors and family members who found organizations to stop drunk driving, to combat breast cancer, to cure mental illness, etc. Until we realize how close we are to a shooting tragedy and actually do something about it, we will continue to have close calls – until it’s not a close call.
What can we do? Begin by examining the gun safety laws or the lack of gun safety legislation in Florida and across most of our country.
From 1994-2004 there was a federal law banning assault weapons in the U.S During that 10-year period, mass shooting fatalities were 70% lower compared to the periods before and after the ban.
Clearly, weak gun laws fuel gun violence through two important channels. First, weak gun laws permit the illegal acquisition of guns by people prohibited by law from having them. Secondly, weak gun laws facilitate the flow of illegal guns to people involved in high-risk networks – a key mechanism in shaping rates of deadly violence in American cities and across the country, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Violence.
I am not suggesting putting restrictions on responsible gun owners who will use their guns safely. I only refer to the need for laws that keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people like the recent shooter in Jacksonville who walked into a Jacksonville supermarket and killed three people only two days after the incident on the Key. Because of loopholes in Florida’s Red Flag laws, this killer legally purchased an AR-15 and a Glock, despite his history of involuntary commitment in 2017 for threatening to kill himself.
So, how do we get reasonable gun safety legislation enacted?
By electing representatives, senators, governors and presidents who support sensible gun regulation. Think carefully before you vote. Do you want to elect people who will put your life, and your children’s lives, at risk by allowing open carry? By allowing anyone to own an assault weapon? By not implementing universal background checks? Think about who your legislators are taking money from, and ask yourself why they continue to vote for laws like permitless carry.
We cannot wait until we are personally affected by a shooting; by then it is too late. We must all protest with our voices and our votes against the abysmal gun laws and the violent rhetoric of politicians and gun industry members. Too many lives have been lost already, and too many more are at stake, if we fail to act.
Jane Torres is a marriage and family therapist, a resident of Key Biscayne for 40 years and a gun safety advocate.