New gun laws will have limited impact on firearms dealers

Published March 14
Updated March 14

TAMPA — Chris Carollo, the founder of Shadow Solutions Firearms in Lutz, expects Florida’s new gun control law to take a bite out of his business.

Carollo says his Pasco County store gets about 20 percent of its long gun sales from customers between the ages of 18 and 20. Under the restrictions that went into effect last week, sales of such weapons are now banned to anyone under 21.

"That just took three years worth of demographics out of our clientele base," Carollo said. "There is not much we can do, but financially we will feel the effects."

Other gun shops contacted by the Tampa Bay Times were less bothered by the changes. They said it is either too early to gauge the impact or don’t believe the law will do much to their bottom lines.

It’s difficult to determine exactly how many potential gun buyers will be affected by the new age restriction. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which keeps statistics on the number of background checks it performs for gun dealers, does not keep records on the age of the applicants.

In addition to raising the minimum age for the purchase of long guns, the legislation eliminated the sale of so-called bump stocks — devices that increase a weapon’s firing speed — and established a three-day waiting period for the sale of all firearms, including handguns.

It also created a system that allows law enforcement to confiscate the weapons of a person deemed a threat to himself or others, prohibits people deemed by a judge to be "mentally defective" from purchasing firearms and creates a $67 million program for county sheriffs to train school personnel to neutralize an active school shooter.

The law was introduced in the wake of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that killed 17 students and adults. It was almost immediately challenged by the National Rifle Association via a lawsuit.

Carollo said for many of his customers, a gun purchase is a rite of passage.

"I can’t tell you how many people come in on their 18th, 19th or 20th birthday to buy a rifle or an AR-15," he said.

Other gun shop owners are taking a wait-and-see attitude.

Rich DiTocco, owner of Castle Keep Guns in Largo, said the new age restriction won’t have much of an effect.

"Most of the things I sell are to people who are 21 or who have a concealed weapons permit," DiTocco said.

He doesn’t expect the new law to do much to solve the problem it was designed to address.

"It won’t have any impact," he said. "It is just a way to make people feel good. In my opinion most politicians do things to help get votes."

Bob Flores, owner of the Iron Site gun shop in Largo, said he isn’t expecting a significant financial impact from the changes. And even if he did, he said he agrees with the new age limit.

"I am good with raising the age limit," Flores said. "I believe 21 should be the age limit to buy a weapon."

Flores, like other gun shop owners contacted for this story, does not carry bump stocks.

"I don’t sell them, and I don’t install them," he said.

"We do not sell bump stocks," said Carollo of Shadow Solutions. "We think they are pieces of junk. We are a high-end shop and never carried them."

Fred Flesche, owner of Shooting Sports in Tampa, said it is too early to tell how the new law’s age restriction will affect business.

As for the waiting period, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties already had a three-day waiting period for all firearms so that is nothing new, Flesche said.

Pasco went by the previous state law, which required waiting periods for handguns only.

"It will affect business somewhat," Carollo said of the mandatory three-day wait for long guns. "It all plays a part."

The waiting period may even get longer in Hillsborough, where county commissioners recently voted 4-1 to have the county attorney draft an ordinance to extend the local waiting period on gun purchases to five days. The commission will hold a public hearing before voting on the ordinance.

Though he expects a long-term hit from the new law, Carollo said that the business did see a bump in the days leading up to the bill’s signing. Business tripled in anticipation of the new law, he said, with about half of those customers in the age bracket that would no longer be allowed to purchase firearms.

"Saturday was a madhouse here," he said. "People wanted to get guns."

Contact Howard Altman at [email protected] or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman.