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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Gun-show loophole laws on the books in Florida, but ignored



A must-read story from Tampa Bay Times staff writer Peter Jamison:

It was a rare moment in American public life: A killer's shooting rampage had claimed lives young and old, giving rise to a burst of political will to strengthen gun laws.

In November 1998, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state Constitution that allowed counties to mandate background checks for private gun sales — closing the so-called gun-show loophole. Public support for universal background checks had surged over the summer, after Tampa resident Hank Earl Carr, a volatile felon who acquired a stockpile of firearms despite his criminal record, fatally shot three law enforcement officers and a 4-year-old boy.

The constitutional amendment passed with 72 percent of the vote.

With their newly granted authority, Florida's most populous urban counties, including Pinellas and Hillsborough, rushed to enact ordinances regulating gun shows. From a distance, it looked like a bracing example of voters making their will known on an issue that confounds politicians.

The reality is very different. 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.

[Last modified: Sunday, April 7, 2013 12:01am]


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