The shooting death of 13-year-old Lourdes Guzman-DeJesus on a school bus is so sad that it defies description. She was on her way to school with her seven-year-old sister and seven other children, when 15-year-old Jordyn Alexander Howe pulled a pistol out of his backpack. The gun discharged, sending a bullet into the girl's neck. She was airlifted to Miami Children's Hospital where she died from her injury.
The shooter was arrested and is now in the custody of the Miami-Dade Police Deparment. He was charged with manslaughter and carrying a concealed firearm. The police were able to retrieve the weapon. According to the Miami Herald, his parents are unlikely to face charges since apparently, they made a "reasonable" effort to secure the weapon. I question this decision, as he obviously was able to gain easy access to the gun.
Mr. Alexander was not a student at the girl's school, but attended Somerset Silver Palms. The bus was not equipped with surveillance cameras. As a Miami children's injury lawyer, I believe surveillance cameras should be required on all school buses.
This serves as a tragic reminder of why we need to take a closer look at Florida's gun laws. In the wake of the mass shootings in Colorado and an increase in gun violence in Florida, I have a growing concern that new measures need to be put in place before tragedy strikes again.
There are nearly one million concealed weapon permits in Florida. For some reason, Florida's Department of Agriculture is responsible for issuing and authorizing the use of concealed weapons. According to the Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, his office issues between 10,000 to 15,000 permits every month. The demand for concealed weapon permits in Florida has escalated to the point that Putnam has had to hire additional employees to handle the demand. Florida utilizes a Fast Track system that allows gun owners to make an appointment at one of eight regional offices to review weapons permits even faster. What's the hurry?
Florida has enjoyed a long love affair with the Second Amendment. According to Mr. Putnam, "the right to carry a concealed weapon or firearm for self-defense is a right of all law-abiding Floridians." This year, to sweeten the deal, Florida even lowered the price of a concealed weapons permit from $85 to $70. To date -- of the 2.2 million gun permits issued since 1987 -- only 6,200 have been revoked as a result of crimes. That is less than one percent.
Florida Statute Section §790.06 (1) defines a concealed weapon as a handgun, electronic weapon, tear gas gun, knife or billy club. Ironically, while Florida law recognizes the right to carry a concealed weapon, it does not authorize the use of it. Perhaps it is time that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement takes away the responsibility of overseeing concealed weapons from the Department of Agriculture? Just because having a gun in Florida is a constitutionally protected right does not mean it should be so cheap and so easy.