In 1998, Florida voters overwhelmingly amended the state Constitution that allowed counties to require background checks for private gun sales, closing the so-called gun-show loophole. Public support for universal background checks surged after Hank Earl Carr, a felon who acquired a stockpile of firearms despite his criminal record, fatally shot three law enforcement officers and a 4-year-old boy. Florida’s most populous urban counties rushed to enact ordinances regulating gun shows, says the Tampa Bay Times.
Despite the amendment’s passage and counties’ actions, the requirements for criminal records checks on private gun sales are virtually unenforced in Florida. Law enforcement officials, government attorneys and gun-show organizers say the ordinances are ignored in the seven counties — encompassing almost half of Florida’s population — that currently have them. Sheriff’s deputies and police officers have responsibility for seeing that the background checks are conducted, but acknowledge they do little to ensure compliance. Gun-show organizers say private sellers typically disregard the laws. One gun-show organizer called it a “feeling-good law” with no impact whatsoever.