A Florida Senate committee has defied the National Rifle Association (NRA) to pass a bill narrowing the so-called “gun show loophole,” reports the Miami Herald.
While few expect the bill will become law, its approval by the Republican-led committee Monday may be another sign of the state’s shifting attitudes towards gun regulation in the two years since a troubled teenager fatally shot 17 people at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fl.
Senate Bill 7028 would require private-party sales at “public places,” such as gun shows, to go through a background check that could be obtained through one of the licensed gun dealers at the show for a fee.
For other types of private transactions, a gun seller would be required to check the buyers’ ID to make sure they’re legally allowed to own the weapon.
While the bill falls short of more stringent requirements advocated by gun control advocates for private sales of firearms, it drew fire from the NRA’s top lobbyist in Florida, who called it “nothing less than gun control on steroids.”
Republican committee chairman Sen. Tom Lee, however, described it as an attempt to enact gun control “in the least onerous and burdensome way to gun-owners.”
Background checks for person-to-person sales make up just an estimated 20 percent of all gun sales in Florida, according to an analysis by the Senate committee staff.
Still, Lee argued, the bill was “our best effort to try to improve public safety on the margins.”
“I empathize that any time somebody breaks the law, we come in and pass something, and law-abiding citizens are imposed upon. I get it,” said the senator.
“But we have a job to do. We can’t just sit by idly while our children are killing children and pretend this isn’t happening.”
Since the Feb.14, 2018 Parkland shooting, legislators in what many call one of the most ‘gun-friendly” states in the country have raised the minimum age for owning a weapon to 21, imposed a three-day waiting period for gun purchases, and allowed police to seize someone’s firearms under certain circumstances.
Last month, a bill calling for a state database of fingerprints for people who apply for concealed carry permits, and requiring people to re-apply for a new permit every five years instead of the current seven, was introduced in the state legislature.
The new bill would require buyers to fill out a form answering questions about whether they’re a felon, a fugitive from justice, or have anything else in their history that would prevent them from owning a gun. The seller would also have to confirm “no knowledge or reason to believe that the purchaser is of unsound mind.”
Failure to fill out a form would be a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail.
The form would have to be witnessed and signed by a notary public. But the bill doesn’t require the seller to submit it to authorities, in effect establishing an “honor system.”
Nevertheless, it would be in the seller’s “best interests” to hold on to the form indefinitely, “should this weapon ultimately get used in the commission of a crime,” Lee said.
NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer claimed the bill was an “attempt to ban private sales through red tape and fear.”
“Asking average citizens to create what amounts to a government form and get it notarized is ridiculous,” Hammer added.
Members of the gun-control group Moms Demand Action who were in the room during the Senate vote welcomed the move.
“It’s a great first step,” said Kate Kile, the leader of the organization’s Tallahassee chapter.
The chances of the new bill becoming law, however, are slim, according to observers.
Even if it passes the House, where Speaker José Oliva has not come out in support of new gun regulation, it must still avoid the “veto pen” of Gov. Ron DeSantis, a staunch Second Amendment supporter, the Herald said.
Other provision of the bill include:
▪ Requiring loaded firearms be securely stored to prevent anyone under the age of 18 from accessing them. The current age in the law is 16. The penalty is still a second-degree misdemeanor, carrying up to 60 days in jail.
▪ Requiring loaded firearms be kept securely stored to prevent anyone of “unsound mind” from accessing them. The penalty is also a second-degree misdemeanor.
▪ Requiring paramedics and other emergency medical workers to report to police people who are a danger to themselves or the public. The provision currently exists for mental health workers.
▪ Assigning the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to create a statewide “threat assessment” system to prevent active shooters and assigns the department 37 full-time positions and nearly $6 million.