In the wake of the devastating mass shooting at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week, which claimed the lives of 17 people, most of whom were students, protests in favor of stricter gun control laws have yet again reignited all over the U.S. Florida, of course, stands at the epicenter of the discussion. And, as an NBC investigation has discovered, the number of children killed by guns in Florida skyrocketed between 2010 and 2016.
In 2010 the number children under 18 who were killed by guns was 75. Despite a slight dip between 2011, where there were 73 deaths, and 2013 where the death toll reached a seven-year low of 66, by 2016 the number had jumped to 105. Similarly, the number of Florida minors making visits to the emergency room for non-fatal gunshot wounds has gone from 210 just eight years ago, to 3,765 in 2016. According to Florida doctors, this isn’t because the number of accidental gun injuries has magically gone up.
“This has been a steadily increasing progression, and if you look at the numbers and statistics, it certainly shows that,” Nelayda Fonte, a trauma surgeon at Lee Health, told NBC. “What we’re seeing isn’t just tragic accidents happening at home, we’re seeing younger and younger kids having access to guns on the streets.” While according to National Review, the overwhelmingly vast majority of gun crime isn’t committed by lawful gun owners, the statistic does point out the dangers of rampant gun access.
The increase in Florida minors dying from guns is even more remarkable when considering the fact that Florida, a battleground state that’s just as likely to go red as it is to go blue, has just a 24.5 percent gun ownership rate. In fact, Florida is the only non-Democratic state that made the bottom 10 list for gun ownership.
Florida’s status as a battleground state in this context matters. One would think, given this status, that the sway that the NRA has over elected officials in terms of lobbying would be diminished, but in the case of Florida, that’s simply not true. According to a CNBC report, of the $1 million that the NRA spent in the 2016 election, Congresspeople from Florida, including Sen. Marco Rubio, who just one day after the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman said in just a few words that nothing can be done to stop violent people from getting guns, received the third-biggest total from the NRA PAC’s. Of the states 27 congressional representatives, 18 took NRA money.
Given Florida’s statistically low interest in gun ownership, but sharp increase in gun deaths among minors, the steady flow of NRA money lining the pockets of the state’s congresspeople will no doubt continue to come into question. Of course, it’s hard to say what will happen. But as school shootings are beginning to feel more commonplace in the U.S., certain congresspeople might not be clamoring over each other to upset the flow of NRA money in an election year, no matter how many kids pay the cost.