Image via screengrab Giffords, the gun violence prevention organization is led by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Image via screengrab

With the Sunshine State ranking #2 in mass shootings, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords announced the launch of a program to support candidates for local, state, and federal office who are committed to fighting gun violence.

Luca is afraid to go back to school. The 7-year-old Miami boy has often expressed concern about how “secure” his school building is. “Can a bad guy get inside with a rifle?” he has asked many times, his eyes wide with fear. Though his parents do their best to try to reassure him, they will admit, if only to each other, that they are equally, or perhaps even more afraid, to send him back to the classroom. The fears, however, are not unfounded. Florida ranks 2nd across the nation in mass shootings.

For this reason, Giffords, the gun violence prevention organization led by former Arizona Congress member Gabrielle Giffords, announced the launch of Giffords Florida, its first state-specific political initiative dedicated to supporting candidates for local, state, and federal office in the Sunshine State who are dedicated to fighting gun violence. This initiative includes Giffords en Español, the largest bilingual gun safety political program focused entirely on Florida.

Ahead of the 2022 elections, the organization is endorsing candidates with strong records on gun safety. In fact, in December 2021, Giffords hosted a Gun Violence Memorial at Bayfront Park in Miami and endorsed US Rep. and former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings for US Senate. The slate of endorsed candidates in Miami-Dade County includes Adam Benna (FL HD-114), a Miami-Dade prosecutor who running for the Florida State House, where he will be an ardent advocate against gun violence; AJ D’Amico (FL HD-113), a legislative aide in the Florida Senate running for the Florida House of Representatives; Janelle Perez (FL SD-38), who is running for the Senate, and Raquel Pacheco (FL SD-36), a military veteran running for the Senate who believes weapons of war should only be used on the battlefield by well-trained service members.

Accountability Matters

At the same time, the initiative is also focused on holding Florida’s leaders accountable. For this reason, Giffords Florida has been conducting a campaign highlighting Sen. Marco Rubio’s inaction and hypocrisy regarding gun violence prevention.

“I think it’s really important for voters to know that right now we have a governor that is not putting the safety of Floridians first, and a senator, Marco Rubio, who is choosing millions and millions of dollars from the National Rifle Association (NRA), instead of choosing to work to protect the lives of children in our community,” former Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell told Floricua.

A State of Alarm

In Florida specifically, the numbers relating to gun violence are sobering, especially when taking into account that, as Democratic Florida Rep. Carlos G. Smith says, “[Gun violence] has a disproportionate impact on urban communities of color, like Blacks and Hispanics.”

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  • In an average year, 2,849 people die and 4,270 are wounded by guns in Florida.
  • Guns are the 2nd-leading cause of death among children and teens across the state, where an average of 206 children and teens die by guns every year, according to data from EveryTown for Gun Safety.
  • Thirty percent of these deaths are suicides and 66% are homicides.
  • Additionally, 76% of all homicides involve a gun, and 67% of female intimate partner homicide victims were killed with a gun.

The Sequels of Gun Violence

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In a study published in 2021 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), for example, researchers observed more than 2,000 11th and 12th graders about their fear of shootings and violence at their own or other schools. What they found is heartbreaking: kids who were initially more concerned were more likely to meet the criteria for generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder six months later. Research also shows that younger children are even more likely than older ones to develop symptoms like anxiety and PTSD as a result.

A Focus on the Sunshine State

“Thousands of Floridians have experienced the horrors of gun violence firsthand,” says Giffords Florida State Director Samantha Barrios. “Gun violence is a disturbing fact of life in too many Florida neighborhoods. We’re going to do everything we can to support candidates who have the courage to fight gun violence and keep Floridians safe.”