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Gun control bill falters

Gun control opponents appear close to killing a bill that would crack down on unlicensed dealers who sell firearms at gun shows and flea markets.

While a different committee was killing a handful of gun control bills one floor below, Sen. Karen Johnson pulled her bill from consideration by the Senate Professional Regulation Committee on Monday.

Johnson said she hopes to work with senators who expressed reservations about the bill, which, like other gun control legislation, was heavily opposed by a well-organized and well-financed lobby.

"That's just the first step," said Johnson, D-Inverness. "There were some senators that said we can work with this. I don't feel discouraged."

After delaying the vote on the bill, Johnson must navigate her bill through that committee and three other committees. Given the success of the gun-control opponents elsewhere Monday, the bill's chances now appear dim.

Johnson's bill targets loopholes that allow unlicensed dealers to sell thousands of firearms at gun shows and flea markets or from their homes. That way the dealers avoid reporting the sale, requiring a waiting period or checking background of gun buyers. Johnson filed the bill after the Times reported the loopholes and lax enforcement of federal law.

"A dog can buy a federal license," she said. "A mailbox actually bought a license."

Florida law requires federally licensed dealers to notify the Florida Department of Law Enforcement before selling a firearm to someone not licensed as a dealer, but many do not comply.

The bill applies regulations to more dealers in two ways.

It requires anyone with a federal firearms license to register with the state. Currently, 13,500 federal licenses have been issued in the state while 9,500 dealers are registered with the state. The bill also requires anyone selling more than 15 guns a year to obtain a state firearms dealer's license.

Even dealers who comply with laws oppose Johnson's proposal to charge them $400 for a license.

The state would deny licenses to anyone convicted of a felony or who had adjudication withheld on a felony charge unless three years had passed since termination of probation or other condition set by the court.

Anyone convicted felon who had not had civil rights restored also would be denied a license.

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