"There are members of the legislature who in recent years have talked about the funding of terrorist groups," state Sen. Dwight Bullard told the Miami Herald. "The idea that we're giving incentives to [assault weapons manufacturers] is problematic. It's hypocritical."

Corbato, though, represents another side of Florida's gun industry: a mom-and-pop operation where the tax cuts haven't meant much and the hubbub has only added unwanted politics to a job he sees as a personal passion. "There is nothing negative about what I do," he says. "It won't bring me bad karma."

Gun manufacturing isn't new to the Sunshine State. Large firms began moving in during the 1980s — and controversy soon followed. One company called Interdynamic opened in Miami in 1981 with the soon-to-be infamous Intratec TEC-9, a handgun that could blast 300 rounds a minute. Brazilian firearms builder Forjas Taurus opened its American subsidiary, Taurus USA, in the Magic City in 1984, and in 1993, Century International Arms established its beachhead in Delray Beach. According to its website, Century is "North America's largest importer of surplus firearms and accessories."

At a recent Miami gun show, Eric Faden hoped to capitalize on the bullish market for rifles.
Francisco Alvarado
At a recent Miami gun show, Eric Faden hoped to capitalize on the bullish market for rifles.
Sean Yamuni says shooting high-powered rifles is as American as watching football.
Giulio Sciorio
Sean Yamuni says shooting high-powered rifles is as American as watching football.

Others have accused the Delray manufacturer of playing a darker role, though. A 2011 PBS documentary noted that Century specializes in importing foreign rifles that it modifies with American-made parts. The result is "a high-powered rifle from abroad that, as altered, would be barred under the import laws," PBS claimed. (Century didn't return New Times' calls for comment.)

But the industry changed dramatically in 1994, thanks to the Brady Bill, a piece of legislation that sought to ban assault rifles like the AK-47, the AR-15, and 15 other high-powered weapons. The locally made TEC-9, one of the weapons banned from new production under the bill, soon became one of the highest-profile weapons outlawed when one of the shooters in the Columbine High School massacre used the gun.

The prohibition failed spectacularly thanks to mortar-size loopholes. Manufacturers flooded the market with grandfathered-in weapons. Others simply altered parts and sold firearms under different names.

In 2004, Congress let the ban die, leading to a new boom in AR-15 and AK-47 manufacturing. Under Rick Scott, Florida has done its best to capitalize on that market. In December 2011, Colt's Manufacturing Company received a $1.6 million tax credit in Osceola County, bringing 63 jobs. Palm Harbor-based Adams Arms, which manufactures equipment for AR-15-style rifles, got $200,000 to open in Pasco County, hiring 29 people. Kel Tec CNC, a Cocoa Beach company that made the handgun that George Zimmerman used to kill Trayvon Martin, received nearly $15,000 to train employees.

Around the time the 2004 ban expired, Corbato decided to enter the business for very different reasons. Corbato, the son of an architect who worked as a military contractor, was introduced to guns by his father.

"I shot my first competition when I was 8 years old," he says. "By the time I was a teenager, I had won some competitions statewide. I even got to try out for the 1980 Olympic team."

After graduating from Christopher Columbus High School in 1982, Corbato stopped competitive shooting to focus on amateur motorcycle racing. He quit racing after earning a biology degree from Biscayne College (now known as St. Thomas University) and spent the next 20 years in Jackson Memorial Hospital's trauma center doing CAT scans. "I got to see how precious life is," he says.

But Corbato never lost his entrepreneurial spirit and yearned for a career that would use his mechanical abilities. So he took a course in gun making from Colt and in 2002 left Jackson to form Project Guns with a friend from Boca Raton. Three years ago, Corbato started Nebulous Ordinance, building custom rifles and restoring historic pieces for museum exhibits or movie props. Corbato's custom AR-15s sell for $1,200 to $2,000.

"A lot of my clients work for Homeland Security, the FBI, and the military," he says.

Corbato's business is threatened by more than just a shortage of parts. On January 24, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced a bill that would ban not only AR-15s and AK-47s but also 155 other firearms, including the vintage shotguns and semiautomatic submachine guns Corbato repairs.

Corbato believes his industry is wrongfully vilified. "I've thought a few times about pulling the plug so I don't have to stress," he says. "However, I believe I provide a real service."

The Buyers and Sellers

Eric Faden strolls through the Miami-Dade County Fair Expo Center with a white sheet of paper taped to his shirt. It reads in black marker: "AK-47s 4 SALE."

It's late afternoon on January 20, the last day of Victor Bean's Southern Classic Gun & Knife Show, and a dozen people have already approached the 20-year-old about the four rifles he's selling. Asking price: $1,200 each. He won't say how much he paid for them. "Buy low, sell high," he says with a smirk.

Unlike the dozens of sellers who have purchased a booth and are required by law to run background checks on buyers, Faden has it easy. He can meet his customers in the parking lot and complete the transaction without any restrictions. The skinny-jeans-clad Miami Dade College student with a hipster mustache is one of several sellers unloading outside the Fuchs Pavilion.

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5 comments
tethysv
tethysv

Nice biased hit piece. While you mention percentages of homicides committed with guns locally, rather than compare that to national statistics to see if that's unusual (i.e., rather than act with some journalistic integrity) you instead simply imply, without presenting any evidence, that this is unusually high and is so due to Florida's gun laws. Oddly enough though, when one actually does the journalistically responsible thing and looks at national figures and those from other states (like Illinois, with some of the strictest gun laws, and highest gun crime rates), South Florida, if anything, has a LOWER ratio of gun deaths to total homicides.

And despite your blatant attempt to tie all this to so-called "assault weapons", you never mention the fact that virtually none of these deaths ever involve such firearms. However, just as everywhere else in the US, such firearms are used in fewer than 1/2 of 1% of homicides (and virtually never in suicides). In fact, the only specific study done in the state on the subject, carried out by the city of Miami, one of the most anti-gun city governments in the state, found that so-called "assault weapons" are the LEAST often used type of gun in any form of crime within the city, despite the fact that, as you point out, they are one of the most commonly owned.

But hey, what are facts and verifiable statistics compared to bigotry and unsupported innuendo, right?

localGuy
localGuy

Spence-Jones  said 2 words..   No Snitching! 

icculus17
icculus17 topcommenter

jobs? sounds like a one-man operation

localGuy
localGuy

My question is, which of the proposed laws, will stop a sandy hook, or denver type attack?   (today). or even the AZ Gifford's attack?   


background checks make sense.  but limiting the number of bullets?  


would stiffer sentences have the same effect?  -felons caught with guns get 20-30 years.



localGuy
localGuy

Ruger Mini-14 sniper rifle.  - that is an oxymoron.  mini14's are not that accurate.

 
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