Thursday, January 18, 2018
Opinion

Commission shouldn't fear gun background checks

What is it about requiring a background check for the purchase of firearms that the Pasco Commission finds objectionable?

All newly manufactured firearms for the retail market in the United States are sold to federal firearms license holders. There are 2,392 licensed gun dealers in Florida. There are more then three times as many licensed gun dealers in Florida as there are Postal Service branch offices. In Pasco there are 65 businesses selling firearms, no resident is more than 5 miles from a dealer.

These dealers are your licensed local sporting goods store and gun shop that pay local taxes, hire locally, provide firearms training and, for a small fee, do background checks for private firearms sales. Before they sell any firearm new or used they do a background check. By law the FBI does not collect or maintain the information provided by the purchaser. It is destroyed within 24 hours after an application is approved or disapproved. No list of firearms owners is maintained.

In Florida the average response time for background checks is four minutes. It is not any more inconvenient than cashing a check or checking out at the grocery store.

Since its inception in 1998, the national background check system has processed 165 million applications to purchase firearms. Florida, in 2012, processed 834,319 applications and another 217,481 applications through the first two months of this year. Citizens are taking advantage of their Second Amendment rights in record numbers. Doing background checks has not infringed on the Second Amendment right to own firearms.

The national background check has denied more than a million felons, fugitives, abusers and others from getting firearms and from being a threat to our safety. In 2012, Florida denied 10,185 applicants for firearms.

When firearms are purchased it is the one time law enforcement has the opportunity to be proactive in protecting the public safety. If a background check is not in use, these criminals can purchase firearms. Does the Pasco Commission protect the Second Amendment by allowing felons to purchase firearms? What possible rationale is there for risking the lives and safety of Pasco residents so felons can buy firearms?

The felons, abusers, fugitives, mentally ill and drug users denied firearms by the background check seek firearms through other means. They steal them or they use "straw buyers," persons who can pass a background check, to purchase firearms for them. Or they go to a gun show in a jurisdiction that does not require background checks, like Pasco County.

The sale of firearms to those who desire to avoid a background check is a booming business.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and explosives reported that 40 percent of all firearms sold at gun shows are done so by nonlicensed dealers who do not conduct background checks. Last year, 2012, it is estimated that 6.6 million guns were sold without background checks.

The ATF reports "gun shows are avenue for criminal activity and a source of firearms used in crimes." Research shows having background checks saves lives and reduces criminal activity. What possible rationale does the Pasco Commission have for risking the lives of Pasco residents so felons and the mentally ill can purchase firearms?

Ten national police organizations including the Major Cities Police Chiefs Association and the Major Counties Sheriffs Association support background checks. The National Fraternal Order of Police, the oldest and largest law enforcement organization in the United States, which represents the officers in the Pasco Sheriff's Office, strongly recommends background check expansion stating "Loopholes in the background check system give criminals unprecedented opportunity to access firearms."

Even Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation and chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right To Keep and Bear Arms, in an interview with the Washington Post, supported background checks if the records of the sales were not kept. They are currently destroyed within 48 hours in Florida.

Closing the gun-show loophole is first and foremost a public safety issue and it would be prudent for the Pasco Commission to require background checks for the purchase of firearms at gun shows.

Lynn Lindeman is chairman of the Pasco Democratic Executive Committee

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