The gun show "loophole" is under a lot of scrutiny lately. The debate is particularly unique in Florida. Back in 1998, Florida voters gave individual counties the authority to require criminal background checks and waiting periods at gun shows in their county.
The local option is part of the state constitution.
Gun control advocates are fighting to close what they call the gun show loophole. It's when people can legally buy firearms at gun shows without criminal background checks or waiting periods, if they purchase from a private seller at a show. Federally licensed dealers require background checks, by federal law.
The debate is firing up in Pasco County. County Democratic Party Chairman Lynn Lindeman is urging commissioners to close the loophole in Pasco, as some other Bay Area counties have.
"If you fail to act, you must bear part of the responsibility for a death caused by a firearm purchased by a mentally ill person or a felon at a Pasco County gun show," Lindeman told commissioners Tuesday.
Pasco County residents voted "no" on the measure 15 years ago.
"The last time the commission addressed this in 1998, Pasco was different," Lindeman told commissioners. "It's a lot more urban now. Firearms are much more efficient."
Last month, Lindeman sent a letter to Pasco County commissioners asking them to take advantage of the state's local option and close the loophole.
Bill Bunting, 2nd Amendment Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, tried to persuade commissioners otherwise. He says the bad guys aren't getting their guns at gun shows. He points to a show in Lakeland last weekend.
"The Lakeland Police were inside the show, working the show. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement had a table and they had people undercover. The last place (criminals) want to come in is to a gun show," Bunting said.
Bunting told FOX 13 he's also concerned that enacting the local option in Pasco County would only lead to further gun control restrictions.
"They never know where to stop. They don't know where to end it," Bunting said. "There's always going to be something else. Their agenda is to take away guns, period."
Commissioner Pat Mulieri sparred with Bunting during the meeting. She brought the issue to the board, after reading Lindeman's letter.
"It's still hard for me to understand why it would create such a problem ... I wouldn't mind waiting three days or having my background checked," she said.
Commissioners heard from only one other person. Arthur Hayhoe has been executive director of the Florida Coaltion to Stop Gun Violence for the past 25 years. He says the federally licensed dealers at gun shows aren't the problem. He says it's the sales from private sellers that could lead to trouble.
"This is big business. These guys go from gun show to gun show, selling their private collections," Hayhoe said. "It's just anybody with a bunch of guns. They stack them on a table and they sell them. And the danger is there's no record of the buyer, or the seller, or the gun."
Pasco County commissioners voted to put the issue on an upcoming agenda for public discussion. The board did not set a date to hear public input.
Hillsborough, Pinellas, Sarasota, and Hernando Counties all have laws on the books requiring criminal background checks and waiting periods for all buyers at gun shows.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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