Florida bill proposes to regulate private gun sales advances

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida would require background checks before weapons could be sold at gun shows and would require private gun transactions be documented under a bill unanimously approved by a Senate committee Monday.

The legislation also would require health care professionals tell law enforcement if they believe a patient is threatening to carry out a violent act that would seriously harm or kill someone.

The legislation was drafted at the direction of Republican Senate President Bill Galvano, who asked the Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee to propose gun safety legislation as a response to mass shootings around the country.

“This bill is … our best effort to try to improve public safety on the margins here in the state of Florida. No one represents this as a panacea,” said committee Chairman Sen. Tom Lee.

The bill also requires gun owners to safely store loaded firearms if they live with someone under the age of 18. Current law requires safe gun storage if there’s someone in the household under 16. It also requires the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to develop a a statewide strategy to assess potential threats to be used to train local law enforcement agencies.

A new form would be created to document private gun sales. People who sell a gun to another person would have to verify the buyer’s identity and keep a document of the sale for 20 years.

“It is not a perfect system, but I think it is our best effort at this point to try to identify a way in which we can create a burden on the seller of a weapon here in our state to do their due diligence to try to get to the bottom of whether or not somebody can lawfully possess a weapon in this state,” Lee said.

The bill also would ban sales of weapons in public, including at gun shows and flea markets, unless a criminal background check is completed.

Republicans have controlled the Florida governor’s office and Legislature since 1999 and until recent years have been known more for expanding gun rights rather than creating new restrictions. But after a shooting that killed 17 people at a Parkland high school two years ago, a new law was enacted to raise the minimum age for buying a rifle from 18 to 21, among other restrictions.

Marion Hammer, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, spoke against the bill, calling it “gun control on steroids.”

“It appears to be an actual attempt to ban private sales through red tape and fear,” she said. “If anyone votes in favor of this bill, it’s like a doctor giving a patient an antibiotic for a virus. The doctor knows it won’t cure the illness, but at least he can make people think he’s doing something. And in my opinion supporting a bill so you can say you’re doing something is political eyewash.”

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