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Access to Firearms in Florida

Fiol Law Group|Posted in Gun Safety on September 17, 2018

Mass shootings throughout the United States have created a great deal of scrutiny of gun laws at both federal and state levels. Florida, which has had several shooting incidents in its history, including the tragic Parkland school shooting that ended in 17 deaths, has some of the least restrictive gun laws in America.

What Restrictions Does Florida Have on Gun Purchases?

Florida laws may be lax, but there are some regulations in place that do put restrictions on gun purchases. Anyone who wishes to purchase a gun from a licensed dealer must pass a background check. If the person has a conviction for a felony or a misdemeanor related to domestic violence, he or she will not be able to purchase a gun legally. The buyer must be 18 years of age to purchase a rifle and 21 to purchase a handgun. There is a three-day waiting period between purchase and delivery on any handgun sales and it is also illegal to carry a concealed rifle or shotgun.

These laws do put some restrictions on gun purchases, but they are also lacking in many ways. For example, hitting a red flag on a background check may initially prevent a purchase, but the person may still be able to buy a gun if he or she passes further evaluation. Additionally, background checks are only necessary for those purchasing a gun from licensed dealers; there is no requirement to check the background of people involved in private sales.

Gun Ownership and Mental Illness

Florida’s legal restrictions do not fully cover people with mental issues that might affect their ability to reasonably handle a gun. A court must find the person “mentally defective” for there to be such a restriction. Anyone who has a mental illness that would make him or her unable to safely handle a gun can still purchase a gun if there is no judicial ruling on the person’s mental health.

State law does not require anyone to have a permit or license to purchase a gun. Once a purchase is complete, gun owners are not required to register the weapon. Gun owners must have a permit for concealed carry of a handgun, but such a registry isn’t publicly available. Any attempt to create a database of gun owners is considered a third-degree felony under Florida law, punishable by a $5 million fine.

Buying in Bulk and Assault Weapons

Florida law is also lacking when it comes to restricting how many guns an individual or organization can purchase at one time. Unlike other states, in Florida it is legal to buy guns in bulk with no additional restrictions or reporting requirements.

While there are laws about the purchase of rifles and shotguns, Florida has no specific laws relating to assault weapons, such as those most often used in mass shootings. And unlike the delay on handguns, someone purchasing an assault rifle does not need to wait three days after the purchase to receive the gun. Florida law also lacks restrictions on magazine size.

These regulations place very few limits on the types and quantities of guns people can purchase. Even people who may not be able to purchase a gun from a licensed dealer can still do so via a private sale without any of the same regulations. And because there’s no legal record of registered gun owners, it’s very easy for guns to fall into the hands of people who may not wield them responsibly.

Are these regulations enough?

The Second Amendment protects the right of the people to bear arms, but tragedies like the Parkland shooting suggest that Florida gun laws may need some adjustment to prevent dangerous firearms from falling into the hands of people who want to cause harm to others. How such changes will play out will depend on both state and federal legislation.