Florida’s new gun law doesn’t address waiting periods
Oct 18, 2011
The following article was published in the Orlando Sentinel on October 17, 2011:
State’s new gun law doesn’t address waiting periods
By Mark Schlueb
If the Legislature’s aim in ordering the repeal of all local gun laws was to clear up confusion over a hodgepodge of rules, it didn’t work.
Gun-rights advocates applauded tough new penalties that went into effect this month for city and county politicians who pass or enforce their own local gun laws. The ensuing rush to kill firearm ordinances meant gun owners wouldn’t have to worry about inadvertently violating the law by simply visiting a city with different rules.
But it turns out, one of the most widely applied rules — waiting periods that vary by county — is unaffected. Today, Orange County is expected to repeal several local firearms regulations, including a three-day waiting period for handgun purchases. But other counties have no plans to repeal their waiting periods, which often exceed state law.
It’s creating confusion for gun buyers and sellers who expected the Legislature’s action to erase all local firearm rules.
The state already imposes a three-day waiting period for the purchase of handguns. But Florida voters amended the state constitution in 1998 to give counties the authority to enact their own waiting periods. These county waiting periods can be as long as five business days and can apply not just to handguns but to shotguns and rifles, too.
The result can be puzzling for consumers. Someone who buys a shotgun in Hillsborough County must wait three days to take delivery, but could leave the store with his new shotgun the same day in neighboring Polk County. The same buyer has to wait five days in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
“We have six stores and go to 42 gun shows a year,” O’Meara said. “As we go to these different counties, we have to remember, ‘OK, it’s this waiting period for [rifles and shotguns] here, and it’s this many days for a handgun there.’ “
By contrast, Orange County’s waiting period largely mirrors state law; it is three days, and applies only to handguns. Assistant County Attorney Bob Guthrie said Orange isn’t required to repeal its ordinance, but there’s no reason to keep it because state law does the same thing.
“We want to take a very cautious approach,” Guthrie said. “Some communities are reacting a little more drastically to this intrusion on home rule.”
The Orange County Commission also is expected to remove two other local gun regulations: a provision allowing the county emergency management director to suspend the sale of firearms when an emergency is declared, and a zoning rule that prohibits gun stores and shooting galleries on International Drive.
Palm Beach County commissioners have already erased a half-dozen rules, including a ban on carrying guns in parks and public buildings. But there are no plans to kill the local waiting period, said Assistant County Attorney Jim Mize Jr.
“It’s clear that the constitution grants this authority to counties,” Mize said.
That’s what Mize has told puzzled gun-shop owners who have called to see whether the new state legislation means they can now ignore local waiting periods. And the confusion isn’t restricted to retailers; Mize has even had to explain the law to a representative of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
State Rep. Matt Gaetz, who sponsored the bill that imposed $5,000 fines and tough penalties on local politicians who adopt gun laws, said the state constitution prevents the Legislature from wiping away county waiting periods.
“It simply wasn’t the objective of this legislation, and it could not have been due to the constitutional framework that we have on waiting periods,” said Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach. “I’m not a fan of them, but we have all taken an oath to uphold the constitution.”