Op-Ed

Wake-up call in Liberty City

LIBERTY CITY: Police investigate site of Sunday’s mass shooting in Miami.
LIBERTY CITY: Police investigate site of Sunday’s mass shooting in Miami. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Countless issues in the governor’s race are being neglected or mentioned only in passing, but one hasn’t been mentioned at all: gun violence. The shooting of 15 young people at a Miami nightclub early Sunday should bring the issue to the fore.

Fifteen kids being sprayed with bullets should send a signal that getting guns out of the hands of gang members, street thugs, sociopaths and career criminal needs to be a priority for whomever leads our state for the next four years.

The shoot-out at The Spot, a club in Liberty City, involved mostly teens.

One shooting victim was just 11 years old. The boy the shooters were apparently after is only 15. These are children.

But perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised. Four middle school boys were taken into custody last week after they brought two pistols, one of them loaded, to their Miami school.

It’s not far from where gunmen armed with AK-47s opened fire on a group of people hanging out last June across the street from the Pork ’N Beans housing project, the local epicenter of gun violence. Two people died, seven were wounded. The shooters were never caught.

And lest we think gun violence is limited to the inner city, remember that two weeks ago an ex-con with a drug problem who may also have been bipolar shot and killed his 28-year-old daughter, his six grandkids and himself in the Central Florida community of Bell.

There’s clearly a common link between all these horrific crimes: Guns in the hands of people from whom they should be banned for life.

The facts speak for themselves — we are in the midst of an epidemic of gun violence. Yet our current and former governor dare not speak of it. Go to their campaign websites, and you will find not a word about getting guns out of the hands of kids, criminals and the mentally ill.

Gov. Scott did one of his theme tours a few weeks ago on crime, but failed to say anything about guns. Except his own. He bragged about his shot from nearly 200 yards that brought down a deer on his hunting trip to the King Ranch in Texas.

Basta.

Between now and Nov. 4, both gubernatorial candidates need to tell us how they’ll reduce this epidemic of gun violence.

I have a good idea how Scott would answer: “Florida is at a 43-year low in its crime rate, and I’m a strong supporter of the Second Amendment.” He’ll also tout his A+ rating from the NRA.

Charlie Crist, once rated A- by the NRA, would put on his most empathetic face and say how terribly sorry he is about the young gunshot victims at The Spot and hope those responsible be quickly brought to justice.

But neither Crist nor Scott will offer any real solutions toward stopping gun violence — except hiring more police.

They’d probably say it’s a problem for Congress to solve. Yes, Congress could reinstate the ban on assault weapons and mandate background checks for gun buyers under any circumstances.

But Congress remains cowed by the NRA, just as the state Legislature is cowed by legendary Florida NRA leader Marion Hammer.

Why are guns sacrosanct? Why are lawmakers so afraid of taking action on a critical problem that’s staring them in the face?

Why not act when poll after poll shows a majority of Americans want it much harder to buy a gun and police want a system to trace their sale?

Congress didn’t even act when one of its own, Gabby Giffords, was grievously wounded by a nut case with a gun. President Obama promised to act after another nut job shot up that elementary school in Newtown, Conn., killing 20 little kids and six adults.

Now there’ve been 15 kids wounded in a shoot-out in Miami. If that’s not a wake-up call, what is?

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