Anthawn Ragan Jr., charged with casually firing two shots after he and an accomplice robbed a North Miami nail salon in November, killing 10-year-old Aaron Vu and wounding his father, Hai Nam Vu, became the brutal face of the cold-blooded killer in 2013. Sad to say, he had plenty of company in a deadly year of shootings in South Florida.
Pedro Alberto Vargas went on a shooting spree at his Hialeah apartment building in July, killing six of his neighbors before turning the gun on himself. Ivan Wong told police he opened fire on his wife and her family in Perrine in December, killing his brother-in-law. Then he got in his pickup truck and ran over his wife, Mabel Figueroa, killing her and injuring his father-in-law and two other people.
David Herr was hooking up a car to his tow truck in front of a Lauderdale Lakes apartment building in August when the car’s owner, Tristan Johnson, allegedly shot him to death. Hollywood police are seeking the killer or killers of two men, Delsi Smith and Troy Harris, shot in front of a home in mid-December. Nicole Grier, just 19, was gunned down in a Lauderhill driveway as she was putting her 11-month-old son into her car Dec. 30. Jalil Allen was charged with her death on Sunday.
So it went last year — drive-by shootings, homicides during armed robberies, domestic killings, random acts of violence that left behind grieving families and police manhunts. People with guns kill other people. If the killers didn’t have that deadly weapon in hand, many South Floridians would still be alive in 2014.
Yes, advocating for more gun-control laws, better background checks and other measures to reduce firearms on South Florida’s mean streets seems like a hopeless cause, particularly since Congress did nothing to curb gun ownership after the December 2012 shootings of 20 children and six adults in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., shocked the country.
But just because lawmakers are cowed by the National Rifle Association doesn’t make this nation’s love affair with firearms right. The uphill battle for more gun control must never stop, because too many lives are hanging in the balance here and in the rest of the country.
An offshoot of that national love affair is Florida’s flawed Stand Your Ground law. It allows people to get away with murder. In 2005, the Legislature changed the law, eliminating the requirement that civilians in threatening situations should first try to retreat before defending themselves. Now, it’s perfectly fine to “stand your ground” and shoot first.
The change was decried after George Zimmerman shot unarmed teen Trayvon Martin in 2012. But the Legislature just sat on its hands. So judges have become the last word on what constitutes a justified shooting when SYG is invoked, and their rulings vary wildly, meting out injustice at times. This month, for example, the Third District Court of Appeal, in a 2-to-1 ruling, overturned Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Thomas Rebull’s rejection of Gabriel Mobley’s bid for immunity for shooting two unarmed men after an altercation at a restaurant. Judge Rebull found Mr. Mobley’s version of the shootings not credible after listening to his testimony. The appellate court extrapolated its decision from the court transcript.
This flip-flop is the latest example of the dangerous folly of SYG’s self-defense provision, so loosely written that one individual’s shooting is justified while another’s shooting in similar circumstances is prosecuted. State legislators need to amend this law, period.