Florida mayors urge Legislature to pass universal background checks

The idea goes beyond what’s currently on the table in Tallahassee
Mayor Jane Castor enters the 'Gathering Room' during the start of the oath of office ceremony held at Armature Works in Tampa, Florida on Wednesday, May 1, 2019.
Mayor Jane Castor enters the 'Gathering Room' during the start of the oath of office ceremony held at Armature Works in Tampa, Florida on Wednesday, May 1, 2019. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Times ]
Published Feb. 6, 2020|Updated Feb. 6, 2020

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and 15 other Florida mayors wrote to a Republican senator Thursday encouraging him to pass universal background checks for gun purchases.

The letter was sent to Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, who is leading an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled Senate to pass a more modest gun control bill, which closes the so-called gun show loophole.

“As you lead the effort to consider legislation this session to prevent gun violence, including mass shootings, we write to express our support for passing a state law to require criminal background checks on all gun sales,” the mayors, including the mayor of Parkland, wrote.

“The Florida Legislature should build upon the important gun violence legislation passed following the Parkland mass shooting and pass a comprehensive background check law.”

Related: RELATED: Over NRA’s objections, Florida Senate committee passes bill closing ‘gun show loophole’

Lee’s bill closes the gun show loophole by requiring all private-party sales at gun shows go through a background check.

But for all other private-party gun sales, the buyer and seller would just have to fill out a form answering a series of questions and have it signed and notarized. The form would not have to be given to any agency.

Lee believes it would increase security by requiring sellers to do some due diligence before selling the weapon. The questions on the form require the seller to ensure the buyer is over the age of 21, for example.

Regardless, the top Florida lobbyist for the National Rifle Association has called Lee’s bill “nothing less than gun control on steroids,” and Republican lawmakers have been reluctant to take up a controversial gun-control measure in an election year.

The idea was spurred by Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, following the back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. Galvano also was instrumental in crafting the legislation following the 2018 Parkland shooting.

Related: RELATED: Florida Republicans are taking up gun control. But this isn’t 2018.

The mayors wrote in their letter that 15 states have passed laws requiring background checks on all gun Sales.

“Background check laws — by point-of-sale check and/or permit — are associated with lower rates of firearm homicide, suicide and firearm trafficking,” they wrote.

The signers of the letter are all members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of mayors co-founded in 2006 by then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg:

  • Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey
  • Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky
  • Orlando Mayor​ ​Buddy Dyer
  • Miami Gardens Mayor​ ​Oliver Gilbert
  • Tampa Mayor Jane Castor
  • St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman
  • Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe
  • Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez
  • Coral Springs Mayor Scott Brook
  • South Miami Mayor ​Philip K. Stoddard
  • North Miami Mayor Philippe Bien-Aime
  • Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson
  • Cooper City Mayor ​Greg Ross​
  • Sunrise Mayor ​Michael J. Ryan​
  • Coconut Creek Mayor ​Sandra L. Welch​
  • Surfside Mayor ​Daniel Dietch​
  • Pinecrest Mayor ​Joseph M. Corradino​