FORT LAUDERDALE — Gun control politics tend to focus on the most shocking tragedies, such as mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., Newtown, Conn., and most recently Santa Monica, Calif. Often missing from the current national debate are the daily challenges of urban communities.
“I don’t want anyone to suffer like I did when my son got killed,” said Sandra Foulks, founder of Fort Lauderdale-based Advocates for Citizens Assistance, which offers support for families of murder victims and counseling for families with loved ones in prison.
“Just as it hit my home … it will happen to you,” said Foulks, whose son was killed in an apparent robbery for which no one was ever arrested.
South Florida logs some of the highest numbers of murders by firearm in the state, according to data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
In Broward, 46 people were killed in 2012, up from 37 in 2011. Palm Beach County has had an average of 62 deaths every year since 2004; in 2012, 64 people were murdered with a firearm, up from 52 in 2011. Miami-Dade far outpaces the rest, however, with 167 killed in 2012, down from 172 in 2011, according to the FDLE.
“You see day after day someone in Broward being shot or killed or held up at gunpoint and when you look at the number of convicted felons who have acquired guns it’s just out of control,” said Sandy Ducane.
He is a neighborhood team leader in South Broward for Organizing For Action, a national nonprofit that held candlelight vigils in April in the runup to the failed Senate vote on gun control. In a Gallup survey after the Senate voted 54-46 against the measure April 17, 65 percent said the lawmakers should have passed it.
“We’re not advocating taking away the Second Amendment, we support that,” Ducane said. “We just want to close the loopholes on gun shows and Internet sales, so that convicted felons, and those that are mentally ill, cannot purchase guns.”
Another effort to stem gun violence, buyback events, have been held in recent months by police departments across South Florida.
On Saturday, June 22, the Coconut Creek Police Department in northern Broward County promised the public no questions asked and up to $150 per firearm. The department collected 75 firearms, a combination of handguns and rifles, said Sgt. Kathryn Markland.
In April the Miramar Police Department collected 84 guns in a buyback, while Pompano Beach collected 124, and paid out nearly $9,000 in Walmart gift cards. Public officials called it a success.
OFF THE STREET
“I’m sure you ain’t got no criminals up here turning in guns. That’s alright too,” said Pompano Beach Commissioner Woody Poitier. “At least we’re getting guns that will never be used for anything else.” Gary Karp, a board member with Broward Crimestoppers, which helped finance the Coconut Creek, Miramar and Pompano Beach events, said the more guns off the street, the better.
In three years with Crimestoppers, “I’ve seen my share of crimes,” said Karp, who lost his daughter to gun violence 10 years ago. “I’m telling you, nine out of 10, they’re all related to gun violence.”
Not all South Florida law enforcement officials agree. In Palm Beach County, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has said his department won’t hold a gun buyback because they rarely yield guns connected to crimes.
Meanwhile, on Friday, June 14, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of mayors across the country, kicked off a 100-day bus tour in Newtown, Conn., where six months ago 20 schoolchildren and six adults were gunned down.
The victims’ parents have been lobbying Congress for stricter gun control laws, especially expanded background checks, which public opinion polls show a majority of Americans support.
The tour, called No More Names: The National Drive to Reduce Gun Violence, seeks to revive national debates on gun control after Congress voted down legislation in April.
Movement organizers claim more than 950 mayors and more than 1.5 million grassroots supporters demanding that Congress take action to end gun violence.
Expected to stop in 25 states nationwide, the tour travels as far West as Montana and Arizona. But it will not come to Florida, traveling only as far south as Louisiana and Georgia.
•Picture Sandra Foulks