Sunday, January 10, 2016

MIAMI | Gun Problem? (Carl Hiaasen, March 1988)

The Book, Cities of 
Opportunity, 1988.
January 10, 2016–Last March I wrote about my being in Miami in 1988 on a book tour  for "Cities of Opportunity". Miami then ranked #1 for homicides and total crimes. (The ranking improved but the violent crime rate has been rising since 2010; in one weekend last month 14 people were shot in four unrelated incidents in Miami-Dade County). 

Columnist Carl Hiaasen noted the book in his column on March 7, 1988 (just before his 35th birthday). I just found the article:

Tarnished Image Alert: Miami officials are concerned that a new book contains outdated information that gives a wrong impression about the area.
     The book, due out in May, is called Cities of Opportunity. It lists 42 American cities that are promising and exciting places for young people to relocate. Miami makes the list.
Carl Hiaasen
Sounds very positive, except for one glitch. The author, John Tepper Marlin, dares to suggest that we've got a little gun problem down here in South Florida. Now, where would he get a crazy idea like that?
In particular, he mentions the infamous loophole in the state's new handgun law that made it legal to walk around with a six-shooter on your hip. That part of the law was hastily fixed, but not before Marlin had already sent off his manuscript.
The city had a chance to point out this mistake, but was two months late in replying to Marlin's publisher. Consequently, the gun stuff stays in the book.
Some complain that it's not fair to bring up the Dodge City slur again, and fear that the book will present a distorted view of how safe it is to live down here.
If only Mr. Marlin had taken the time to visit in the last week or so, he would have gone back to his typewriter with a completely different outlook about guns in South Florida.
These are some of the stories he would have seen on TV, or read in the papers:
• Someone with an automatic weapon opened fire from a passing car at teenagers on a street corner in Coconut Grove. Three youths, including two high-school football stars, were wounded in the apparently random attack.
• An ex-con robber with a violent past pulled a 9 mm Smith & Wesson on a Miami cabbie, who quickly shot him to death with a Colt .45, one of two pistols he was carrying in his taxi under a new concealed-weapons permit.
• A University of Miami law school graduate named Irv Ribler was shot to death while driving down 1-95 in North Broward. Police believe the murder stemmed from a brief traffic altercation with strangers.
• In Liberty City, three men were shot on the street when somebody in a white Camaro or Firebird opened fire with a shotgun. As the car roared off, the gunmen kept shooting at bystanders, and wounded a 19-year-old woman.
• As her children watched, a woman upset over a custody battle shot her ex-husband to death with a pistol in the parking lot of Dade's main juvenile court.
• Four friends out cruising in North Miami decided to play Russian roulette with a .38-caliber pistol. Jose Cotto, age 14, lost. He was the third teenager to die this way in Dade County since January.
• Police arrested two men for the robbery-slaying nine months ago of a children's ice-cream vendor near Kelsey Pharr Elementary School. Authorities noted that this murder was not related to the robbery-shooting of another ice-cream vendor near the same school in January.
• A former member of the Yahweh religious sect pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the shooting deaths of two tenants who refused to leave an Opalocka apartment when the Yahwehs tried to evict them.
• In Fort Lauderdale, a Canadian tourist was shot to death in his beachfront hotel room while Spring Breakers partied along The Strip.
• Burglars who broke into a Northwest Dade home stole a 9mm handgun, an Uzi semiautomatic machine gun, a .32-caliber pistol, a 12-gauge shotgun and a Beretta of unspecified caliber.
This is only a recent sampler. Yet, anyone can plainly see that not one of these incidents resulted from so-called "loopholes" in Florida's firearms laws.
So maybe next time a Mr. Smartypants Liberal wants to write a book, he'll buckle down and do his homework.
A gun problem? Us? What an imagination, this guy.