Survey: What South Floridians Think About Gun Control

Apr 8, 2013

Melissa Aptman was murdered in 1995. Her parents created the Melissa Institute to study the causes of violence and try to make communities safer.

The Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention commissioned a survey last month to measure South Floridians' attitudes about guns as opposed to the rest of the state.

Results show residents overwhelmingly support background checks for all gun purchases.

The institute in South Miami was founded by Lynn Aptman. Her daughter Melissa was shot to death during a carjacking in St. Louis two weeks before her college graduation in 1995.

For 16 years, Aptman says the institute has been looking for ways to make communities safer.

Six hundred residents of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami Dade counties were surveyed about gun control policies backed by the institute. The survey was conducted in conjunction with the University of Miami.

“Ninety percent of the residents in the tri-county area are in favor of background checks,” Aptman said, “and the overwhelming majority are in favor of requiring gun owners to register their guns.”

That's in line with findings made by Quinnipiac University in a similar poll last month.

Two-thirds of respondents want the ban on automatic and semi-automatic weapons reinstated, and they want to limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.

Just under half of respondents support a repeal of the Stand Your Ground law.

Over a quarter of them said their views on guns changed after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut last December.

That doesn't surprise Cutler Bay Democratic Sen. Dwight Bullard.

“You look at national polls in regards to universal background checks and you look at national polls about assault weapons bans, they mirror what's happening in Florida” Bullard said. “Unfortunately, our state has decided to go in the opposite direction.”

Shortly after the Sandy Hook shootings, Florida became the first state to reach one million active concealed weapons permits.

Miami Republican Sen. Miguel Diaz De La Portilla thinks the real issue is about treating people who are mentally ill.

“It's easy to demonize the tool that the crazy homicidal people use, but in reality it's the individual that we need to take care of,” he said.

Even though its website shows a picture of a gun with a circle and a slash through it, Aptman says the institute isn't looking to take away anyone's right to own a gun.

“But if you look at the statistics, the majority of guns are not used for protection,” she said. “The number of guns that are used to commit suicide in homes are way, way higher than the number that are used for protection.”

Americans seem to be exercising gun control without any help from the government.

The New York Times reports the number of homes with guns has dropped steadily since the early 1970's. Back then, half of all households had guns. Now, only a third have them.

The Melissa Institute survey was conducted in late March by Insights Inc., a research company based in Stuart, Fla. It has a margin of error of 4 percent.