Florida Keys

Key West gun store owner offers to help arm LGBTQ community with AR-15s

Dan Acevedo in his Stock Island gun shop days after the Orlando massacre.
Dan Acevedo in his Stock Island gun shop days after the Orlando massacre. gfilosa@keynoter.com

Like gun store owners across the nation, Dan Acevedo doesn’t have to advertise to sell AR-15 rifles in the wake of a mass shooting that stokes the national argument over gun control.

The first business day after the Orlando club massacre that left 50 people dead on June 12, including the Florida-grown gunman Omar Mateen, and 53 injured, Acevedo made a special order for the rifle that has become synonymous with mass shootings from Newtown, Conn., to San Bernardino, Calif.

By that Friday, he was sold out of the AR-15s that cost around $750 and Acevedo says gun sales are rising among locals who are gay, a claim that anecdotally is being made throughout the county.

Acevedo, a Key West native and father of three who opened up Southernmost Guns Inc., on an unassuming corner of Stock Island, the scruffy suburb of the expensive tourist town, announced a special discount after the Orlando shootings — a first for him.

For LGBTQs, Acevedo posted photos of his stock and trade on Facebook, with a message of solidarity along with a promise to discount the price of concealed carry classes, which run about $85.

“I want to give back,” said Acevedo, 37, who along with his employees last Friday was exhausted after a day of fielding phone calls and customers.

Acevedo had 30 AR-15s in the back, he said, but they were all spoken for and awaiting final payments or background check results.

Talk of gun control always spurs on sales, gun sellers know, but whether LGBTQ people are locking and loading post-Orlando remains debatable.

“I don’t know any friends who rushed out to get a concealed carry permit,” said Steve Smith of Key West, who is one of the locals entrusted with a section of the famous giant rainbow flag unfurled at the annual Pride parade. “You can’t carry a gun into a bar.”

Smith says he has thought about getting a gun, but hasn’t followed through.

“It does give you thought,” Smith said of the Orlando club massacre in which Mateen used a rifle very similar to the AR-15. “We really are vulnerable and a lot of people don’t understand us.”

From Sunday through Tuesday after the June 12 shooting, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement ran more than 9,800 background checks for gun sales, more than double than the same three-day span a year before, when there were just under 4,500 checks run.

Don’t call the AR-15, a rifle modeled after the military’s M-16 and coveted in America by collectors and target shooters, an assault rifle in front of the four people left in the gun store last Friday evening.

“If I throw this stapler at your head, is it an assault stapler,” said Emily Austin, a Marine stationed in Key West.

The AR-15 fires fire one round for every trigger pull, while assault rifles fire while the trigger is held down and are severely restricted in the U.S.

“It’s my go-to gun,” Acevedo said, if his family is ever threatened.

Material from the Associated Press was used for this report.

Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen on Twitter

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