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OpinionColumnistsMike Vogel

Unnerved by lax gun laws

Mourners gather at a prayer vigil for the

Mourners gather at a prayer vigil for the victims of last week's shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images / RHONA WISE

With all of its ex-New Yorkers, South Florida is referred to by some as the “sixth New York City borough.” Not quite.

In Florida for a break from the winter cold, I recently woke up to 80-degree sunshine. Later that day, there was horror. Seventeen people, mostly teenage students, were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, not far from where I was staying.

The day after the shooting, I took a stroll down the street. A guy held up a large sign on the corner: “GUNS”

He pointed in the direction of the Palm Beach Shooting Association store in a nearby mall. I was buzzed in to the dark store, and asked the proprietor what I’d need to purchase a gun. He said that if I had a Florida driver’s license, I could have one in three days. If I had a concealed weapons license, he could get me a gun in 15 minutes.

Michele Epstein of Wellington, Florida, a mother of two and owner of a clothing boutique in Boynton Beach, thinks Florida gun laws are much too loose. “We have killings every day here,” she said. “We were looking for a house in Parkland, because of its safe community and schools. Now this happens. When is enough, enough?”

Unlike Florida and most other states, New York makes it difficult to obtain and carry a firearm. In 2011, only about 4,000 people had permits to carry concealed handguns in New York City, according to public records reviewed by The New York Times.

The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 could alter that reality. The bill, which has passed the House of Representatives, would mandate that all states that issue concealed-carry permits or licenses allow people from other states to carry a concealed weapon if they qualify in their home state. Do we want those living in our “sixth borough” or any other area with permissive gun laws to bring their firearms to our streets?

Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association contributes generously to politicians who always offer “thoughts and prayers” for the children killed by gun violence — but never a single idea to stop the proliferation of guns.

My thoughts and prayers are that these politicians are voted out in November.

On my way back to the airport, I squinted at the guy still waving his “GUNS” sign. Chilling.

Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at newyorkgritty.net.

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