COPY-Assault-weapon attacks on rise in Miami area where officer slain

Associated Press - September 14, 2007 4:04 PM ET

MIAMI (AP) - The spray of bullets that killed one Miami-Dade County police officer and hurt three others came from something increasingly common on the city's streets.

High-powered assault weapons like the one police say was used in yesterday's attack are becoming the guns of choice for gang members and other violent criminals.

In 2005, the Miami-Dade Police Department reported two homicides involving an assault rifle; by last year there were 10. The department says 15 of its 79 homicides last year involved assault weapons, up from the year before. This year, already 12 of the 60 homicides have involved the high-power guns.

Carlos Baixauli is a Miami-based special agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He says the numbers reflect growing availability of the weapons and their elevation to a status symbol among gang members. He adds that the guns are readily available on streets or can be ordered by mail for under $200.

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