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S. Florida Leaders Split On State’s Gun Control Laws

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(Source: AP)

(Source: AP)

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David Sutta joined the CBS4 news team in April of 2007. As S...
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South Florida Crime

MIAMI (CBS4) – At a memorial in Newtown, Connecticut Sunday night, President Barack Obama pledged to take on America’s gun violence saying “enough is enough.”

With more than 200 million guns on our streets fixing the second amendment, the right to bear arms, is no easy fix.  The tragedy in Connecticut is certainly stirring an age old debate over gun laws.

Vaughn Leon of Tamarac said he has little faith much can change.

“You ain’t going to stop people from having a gun.  Forget about it,” Leon told CBS4’s David Sutta.

Meanwhile Jenny Bawden, a mother of a young boy, feels if anything more guns should be in people’s hands.

“We have the right to be armed.  What would have happened if every principal had a gun?” Bawden said.

One Florida legislator is proposing such an idea.

Rep. Dennis Baxley said Monday that schools would be safer if principals and teachers were authorized to carry guns.  Baxley is the same legislator who sponsored Florida’s Stand Your Ground law which gives people the right to defend themselves with no need to retreat.

But for every politician pushing guns, there is one trying to take them away.

“It is far too easy to get a weapon in the state of Florida and it makes this type of gun violence far likely,” Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz told CBS4 Monday.

Can anything change though?  After all, Congress has a hard enough time agreeing on well anything these days.

“There are 20 dead first graders.  This is not about politics.   This is about protecting the most vulnerable, youngest Americans,” Wasserman Schultz said.

Based on their voting records we found most of South Florida’s legislators are pro or semi-pro gun control.  The list includes Senator Bill Nelson, Congresswomen Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, and Wasserman-Schultz.

On the gun rights side is Senator Marco Rubio.  While guns are a national debate, Florida leads the way with some of the loosest laws on the books.  At 18 years old you can buy a gun.  There is no license or permit needed.  All you have to do is just wait 72 hours.  Background checks only occur when you buy the gun from a dealer.  If you buy the gun off Craigslist or from some guy in the parking lot there is not paperwork, background, or permit required by law.

Lobbying by the National Rifle Association has led to Florida loose laws.  It is often joked that the NRA runs the Florida legislature.  Florida’s Governor Rick Scott is a member and a pro gun supporter.  He has supported measures to allow Floridians to carry their gun in the open.  He also supported a measure that made it illegal for a doctor to ask a patient if they had a gun at home.  That law was eventually overturned following a lawsuit.

In 2012 some $700,000 was spent by the NRA on Florida politicians.  Top federal recipients included former Congressmen Allen West, David Rivera and current Representative Mario Diaz-Balart.

One of the heaviest hitters aligned with the NRA is South Florida’s own Senator Marco Rubio.  Monday Rubio issues a statement pointing out “The challenge with gun laws is that by definition criminals do not follow the law. For example, Connecticut’s gun laws, some of the strictest in the nation, were not able to prevent this atrocity.”

However, Rubio wrote he will support gun control debate.

Meanwhile Bawdin, the mother of the young boy, plans to buy her first gun.

“I think we’ve all seen what happens when we wait for the government to come and solve our problems and take care of us.” she said.

Gun control is certainly going to be a controversial debate.  It’s estimated 47% of homes in America have a gun.

Here in Florida we just reached a milestone: one million concealed weapon permits.

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