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FL Congressional Candidate Annette Taddeo is one of many Democrats to support Gifford's campaign against gun violence in FL.
FL Congressional Candidate Annette Taddeo is one of many Democrats to support Gifford's campaign against gun violence in FL. Photo: Manny Hernandez/Getty Images.

Florida Democrats look to win the Latino vote on gun control

Dems look to take back more Latino support after losing some in the 2020 election.

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Gun control has long been a topic of discussion and much controversy in the state of Florida and beyond. Two of the deadliest mass shootings have recently occured in the Sunshine State in the last decade — the Parkland High School shooting in 2017, and the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016. 

In regards to gun control in Florida, the shootings have not served as reasons for change to those with the power to change policy, but it is a growing issue of concern for Latino voters. That’s especially true after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, which saw 21 people, including 19 children between the ages of nine and 11. All but one of the students was of Latino descent.

In an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll conducted this past June, 35% of Latinos named gun issues in an open-ended question allowing people to identify up to five issues for the government to be working on in the next year. That compares to just 18% in late 2021, and 10% in 2020. 

In addition to doubling down on gun control laws, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has also been in hot water following chartering a plane for Venezuelan migrants to fly from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. It is part of a state-funded program that relocates migrants, in this case to majority Democratic cities for sanctuary. 

In recent years, the GOP has seen its influence on Latino voters in South Florida bolster, as DeSantis and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio have played big roles in trying to secure Latino voters. Rubio even published a Spanish-written article for a conserative online platform, in which he supported DeSantis’ latest scheme. 

Some Cuban and Venezuelan exiles have also applauded the governor's actions. 

The shift in Latinos towards Republicans has been prevalent. During the 2020 Presidential election, the shift led Democrats to be disappointed as multiple House races were lost to the GOP. Former President Donald Trump also won Florida in 2020 by more than three percentage points, an increase from his win of the state during the 2016 election. 

In an election year that will prove to be pivotal heading towards the 2024 Presidential election, Democrats have changed their campaign strategy as it relates to winning back the Latino vote in Florida. One of the efforts includes former Arizona and U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords, a retired politician, but current gun rights advocate, who began the Giffords Courage, an effort to combat gun violence in the state. 

She tours the state with a bus that has the message: ‘A future without violence,’ written in Spanish on the side of the bus with some state candidates to support it, like Annette Taddeo, a Democratic congressional candidate in 2022. 

Giffords herself survived a mass shooting back in 2011, which took place in Tucson, Arizona where six were killed and more than a dozen were injured. Giffords and her committee have also given Latino candidates across the country more than $15,500 and so far in the campaign in Florida, and have invested more than a million dollars into the fight. 

“It’s a kitchen-table issue – We think we have a real opportunity, specifically in Florida, where there have been so many high-profile, tragic acts of gun violence, where there is such an epidemic of gun violence, to really shift votes,” Peter Ambler, executive director of Giffords, the gun control group, told the Associated Press. 

A poll by the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research earlier this month revealed that Blacks and Latinos are the most susceptible to fall victim to gun violence. 

According to the report, 54% of Black Americans and 27% of Hispanic Americans reported that either they or a close friend or family member experienced gun violence in the last five years, compared with 13% of white Americans. Overall, 21% of U.S. adults reported a personal tie to gun violence that includes being threatened or even a victim of it. 

In addition to this, gun violence has also now become a problem for children. According to the website Gun Violence Archive, that tracks shootings from more than 7,500 law enforcement, media, government and commercial sources, in 2021, that 1,562 children under 17 years of age were victims of gun violence in 2021. 

As the message of gun violence against certain demographics and age groups travels around Florida during the campaign, many hope it will be an eye opener. 

Stephen Nuño-Perez, a pollster analyst at BSP Research firm, researches Latino voter concerns on behalf of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Education Fund, told AP that the topic has “risen in the consciousness of the Latino community.”

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