The overall rate
But according to John R. Lott, the author of several books on gun ownership, including The Bias Against Guns, it’s deceptive to focus on the increase in gun murders in Florida when the murder rate overall has gone down. Since 2000, the murder rate — or the number of homicides per 100,000 people — has decreased from 5.6 to 5.2. That’s the second lowest murder rate recorded since the state began keeping statistics in 1971.
“The main thing that concerns people is the murder rate overall,” Lott said from his home in Virginia. “People want to see it go down, and if it has.”
One possible cause for the increase in gun murders could be that the rise in gun ownership in Florida made them more available during outbreaks of domestic violence, said Sarah Trumble, policy counsel at Third Way, a Washington, D.C., think tank that advocates gun control. The presence of guns in a home during domestic violence increases the homicide chance for women by 500 percent, according to a 2003 study of domestic violence incidences in 11 cities.
Background checks conducted at gun shops prevent people with restraining orders against them from purchasing firearms, but such buyers can still make purchases at gun shows and from private sellers. “It’s one reason that background checks for all guns is important, and it shows the effectiveness of the background check,” Trumble said. Domestic violence is one reason “we need background checks for all gun purchases so desperately,” she said.
After Jack Davis shot and killed the 20-year-old who was attempting to steal his jet-ski, police did not find the gun that his mother alleged the thief was carrying.
Yasmin Davis, whose husband is a prominent criminal defense attorney, told different versions about what happened in the minutes before her son killed Munoz.
But a violent incident a few months earlier likely brought back memories for Davis, who was assaulted by three men in her driveway armed with semi-automatics. They grabbed her purse and fled.
Weiner, who represents Davis and her son, said that while gun laws should provide some restrictions, citizens should still not be penalized for defending themselves.
He maintains that Munoz walked well onto the Davis family property, to the rear of their home.
“She went outside and told him to leave. He didn’t answer her.”
As it turned out, Munoz was deaf and mute.
“She didn’t know he was deaf, she just thought he had what looked like a gun and he was right there,’’ Weiner said.
The Miami-Dade state attorney’s office is still weighing whether to file charges in the case.
“Looking back, would we say he was only going to steal the Wave runner? Who knows?” Weiner said.
Eric Barton did reporting reported for the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, is a nonprofit news organization supported by foundations and individual contributions. For more information, visit fcir.org. Julie K. Brown is a Miami Herald staff writer.