Many of the best-armed criminals call Orlando and the rest of Florida home, reports the Orlando Sentinel. AK-47s, other military-style assault weapons and expensive handguns have become so common that cops across the state routinely encounter suspects equipped for urban warfare, complete with 75-shot magazines and bulletproof vests. In Orange County, the number of crime guns seized last year — 3,333 — was only 500 weapons fewer than the total seized in all five boroughs of New York City, which has eight times the population. Orlando police responded last year to 477 calls about shots fired. Orange County deputy sheriffs handled 10 times that amount — 4,883 “discharge weapon” reports. In just those two jurisdictions, that adds up to more than 14 shootings a day.
“Guns are everywhere,” Orlando police Chief Val Demings said. “We are looking for guns in places where we never looked before. When we’re making drug arrests, nine times out of 10 there’s going to be a gun nearby in the bushes, around the corner or in the house.” In March, the Orlando Sentinel began to collect public records on every firearm seized by Florida’s largest police agencies, spurred by a surge in murder and gunfire locally since the end of the federal assault-weapons ban in 2004. The reports disclosed that the police agencies surveyed had removed nearly 60,000 guns from the streets during the past five years — an arsenal better suited for combat in Afghanistan than the streets of Florida. The actual number was much higher because several departments kept only partial records from 2003 through 2007.