Today, Alachua County became the third Florida county to require a background check on all gun sales occurring on publicly accessible property following the tragic shooting in Parkland. Alachua follows the lead of Leon County, which passed a background check ordinance in April, and Orange County, which did the same in May. Prior to the Parkland shooting, at least seven counties had already taken this step. Thanks to the counties that have acted since Parkland, over half of all Floridians now live in a county that has passed a background check ordinance.
Florida has no statewide law requiring a criminal background check on unlicensed gun sales, making it easy for individuals with dangerous histories to illegally purchase guns online or at gun shows. In fact, nationwide an estimated 22 percent of gun transfers take place without a background check – often between complete strangers who meet online or at gun shows.
People with felony convictions, domestic abusers and others with dangerous histories know about this loophole. And they exploit it every day to illegally gain access to guns, often with deadly consequences.
We know that background checks are among the most effective measures we can take to prevent gun violence. When Connecticut passed a law requiring all gun buyers to pass a background check, the state saw a 40 percent reduction in gun homicides. By contrast, Missouri’s decision to repeal its background check requirement for handgun sales was associated with a 25 percent increase in firearm homicides.
Now that 10 counties in Florida have taken action to help close this dangerous loophole, the Florida legislature should consider addressing this issue statewide. As voters across the state call on elected leaders to do more to prevent gun violence, closing the background check loophole and requiring a background check on all gun sales is a clear next step.