TALLAHASSEE – Floridians who plan on attending gun shows may want to check with their local sheriff’s department before they risk being accused of a crime.
In what could quickly become a broader trend, some local law enforcement agencies are beginning to enforce ordinances that call for mandatory background checks on firearm sales in public places.
Gun rights advocates have long opposed the gun control measure because they say it allows the government to keep a computerized registry of gun owners.
Nevertheless, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said he will now monitor area gun shows to make sure all firearm sellers are performing background checks on firearm sales.
Gualtieri cites the Florida Constitution as the basis for the new policy, though he previously deferred to state pre-emption laws.
“I assumed this was already happening,” Gualtieri told Florida Watchdog.
The Tampa Bay Times broke the story earlier this week.
Other Florida counties have similar laws on the books, and, like Volusia County, could soon require the expansive background checks as well.
Gary Davidson, the department’s spokesman wrote in an email reply that “regarding enforcement, we were hopeful that federal gun legislation would address the issues contained in the ordinance. Since that didn’t happen, we are in the process of developing plans for enforcement of the county ordinance.”
The failed federal gun legislation Davidson alluded to was the collapse of several sweeping gun control bills in the United States Senate last month.
Marion P. Hammer, a past president of the National Rifle Association, said it’s already a federal felony to sell firearms to criminals, substance abusers and the mentally ill.
Gun dealers are also required under federal law to register with the government and must issue background checks on their customers. It is the private, person-to-person gun show sales that gun control advocates are attempting to regulate, better known as the “gun show loophole.”
“I would hope he (Gualtieri) makes sure he has posted signs or caused signs to be posted, notifying an unsuspecting public that he is suddenly going to be enforcing an ordinance that few people know is even in existence. Part of his job is serving the people — not entrapping them,” wrote Hammer in an email.
But the gun show loophole is a bit of a misnomer. Gun shows are popular because they put buyers and sellers together in an event setting. It is also legal to sell firearms in any number of other settings without requiring background checks.
The state constitutional amendment that was recently called to Gualtieri’s attention dates back to 1998 and allows Florida counties to require criminal history checks, but only in public places.
Even so, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office told Florida Watchdog that it will continue to defer to state laws that override local gun control ordinances.
“Under the purview of FSS 790.33 (state pre-emption) we will not enforce any local ordinances or regulations pertaining to firearms until further legislative action clarifies our ability to do so,” said Sue Erwin, spokeswoman for the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Department, via email.
Florida Watchdog did not receive responses from sheriff’s offices in Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Hernando counties.
Published with permission from Watchdog.org
Contact William Patrick at William@FloridaWatchdog.org
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