How Florida’s Lax Gun Policies Contributed to Orlando Massacre and Grimmie Murder
A lot happened in Florida over the weekend. Two major tragedies involving gun violence shook the gator state and further alerted the country of the pressing need for intelligent gun law reform.
As recently reported here, singer and The Voice contestant Christina Grimmie was killed after a performance in Orlando. The 22-year-old vocalist was approached by an unidentified man who “brandished two guns” as she was signing autographs. Forty-eight hours later, Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old man described as an “ISIS sympathizer” who was on the FBI’s most wanted list, stepped into a gay nightclub during the early morning hours and killed 50 people before being killed by police. He was armed with an AR-15.
That both these tragedies occurred in Florida is not coincidental, when we account for Florida’s stance on firearm ownership.
From Trayvon Martin to the Orlando Massacre
Ever since the George Zimmerman “stand your ground” controversy in 2012, Florida has become something of a hotbed for deliberating gun law negligence. Three months before the 18th Judicial Circuit acquitted Zimmerman for killing 17-year-old black teenager Trayvon Martin, the Center for Public Integrity issued a report on the connection between gun ownership and murders involving firearms.
According to CPI:
“Murders by firearms have increased dramatically in the state since 2000, when there were 499 gun murders […] Gun murders have since climbed 38 percent — with 691 murders committed with guns in 2011.”
The report also stated that:
Guns are now the weapons of choice in 75 percent of all homicides in Florida. That’s up from 56 percent in 2000.
Concealed carry permits and the state’s so-called “stand your ground” law, the report points out, “have emboldened more people to carry firearms, leading to more opportunities for gun murders”:
Most of those who apply for gun background checks in Florida — 98.5 percent in 2010 — are approved. That’s in part because of problems with record keeping. Florida lags behind other states in submitting records to a federal database used in gun background checks, according to a report by Mayors Against Illegal Guns. And unlike other states, Florida does not revisit approved background checks if later those gun owners are disqualified from ownership.
The observations and statistics in this report should be assessed in parallel with the debate currently being waged in the Florida Supreme Court — over whether the state should shift its gun law policy from “shall issue” to “open carry.”
State Supreme Court officials are currently weighing the testimonials of gun rights organizations who strongly advocate the law change. These organizations are supported in their opinion by Florida-carry attorney Eric Friday, who — despite what the numbers in CPI’s report show, and the fact that Florida holds the title as the most lenient state on gun regulation — has made his opinion to the justices very clear:
Amid the tragedies that have overwhelmed the heart of the country and global community, this is where Florida is on gun laws. This is the direction it’s moving in. And, should this opinion win the day, should it win over the hearts and minds of state Supreme Court officials, should Florida transition into an open carry state, we can expect more devastating news of gun homicides and — potentially — mass shootings in the gator state.