Eight Floridians die every day because of gun violence. In the span of nine years, gun deaths in Florida jumped by 10%. Entire communities were left reeling after the mass shootings at Pulse and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. And too many of our elected leaders aren’t doing a thing about it, too busy serving the interests of an increasingly radical gun lobby that time and time again puts profit over people’s lives.
Instead of showing up and fighting to end this preventable crisis, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill banning local governments from enacting gun safety protections; the Florida statehouse passed a measure allowing guns inside churches and other religious institutions, and just a few short weeks after the horrific mass shooting in Parkland, Sen. Marco Rubio suggested that gun safety laws don’t help — while pocketing millions from the NRA.
We know Rubio’s claim about gun laws is false. States with stronger gun laws have lower rates of gun violence. Inaction is the real killer. And it’s Floridians — and Black and Latino Floridians especially — who are paying the price. Florida’s elected officials should be trying to curb gun violence, not exacerbating it by striking down lifesaving laws and peddling the NRA’s lies.
Trauma of gun violence
Next week, the gun violence prevention organization Gabby founded, Giffords, will be in Miami to honor and remember the Floridians who died last year because of gun violence. There will be 3,000 vases filled with flowers at Bayfront Park—one for each person who died senselessly and tragically in 2020 because of gun violence. Every single one of those vases represents someone lost to their community, family, and friends forever. One life lost to gun violence is one too many. Three thousand is unconscionable.
The tragedy, pain and trauma of gun violence never truly leave us, something that we both know all too well. Gabby was shot in the head at a constituent event in Tucson in 2011; Debbie’s father was shot and murdered. We both carry this pain with us every day. That’s why we’re committed to ending this crisis once and for all.
Florida has one of the most diverse and vibrant Latino communities in the entire country, a community that Debbie is proud to be a part of. More than one in four Floridians identify as Hispanic or Latino. Many came to the United States in search of their own version of the American Dream, leaving behind countries torn apart by violence — only to find violence here. These are not the ideals upon which our country was built. We can and must do better by our people.
Public education needed
As former elected officials, we are now pursuing a new form of public service: educating the public and elected officials about our country’s gun violence epidemic. We’ve had the privilege of meeting with survivors across the country, hearing about their experiences, each unique and each uniquely American. No other comparable nation suffers from similar levels of gun violence. It’s past time to take action.
Gun violence is preventable. It is a crisis we can solve. We need our elected leaders to find the courage to stand up to the gun lobby and the gun industry and pass lifesaving gun laws now. This isn’t a partisan issue; 86% of Floridians support the Bipartisan Background Checks Act. And an overwhelming majority of Floridians — 72% to be exact — said they wouldn’t vote for a candidate who doesn’t support background checks.
Latinos, and Latinas in particular, are increasingly becoming more politically engaged, and they’re paying attention to what their elected officials are doing. A recent poll shows that 68% of Latinas said that gun-related violence should be at the top of politicians’ concerns.
The tides are changing. Floridians won’t tolerate lies, right-wing extremism and inaction from the people they elect to office anymore. And neither will we. We’ll keep fighting and working to pass gun safety laws. Because that’s what Floridians want, that’s what is right, and that’s what will save people’s lives and help our communities feel safe once again.
Giffords Senior Advisor Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Democrat, represented the 26th District in the U.S. House from 2019 to 2021. Gabby Giffords, a Democrat, represented Arizona’s 8th Congressional District from 2007 to 2012.