Orange County approves ordinance expanding background checks on all gun purchases

On Tuesday, Orange County Commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance that expands background checks on all firearm purchases.

Though Florida already requires a three-day waiting period for all retail sales by licensed firearm dealers and manufacturers, the new ordinance focuses on closing the legal loophole that allows the sale of firearms at gun shows without a three-day waiting period. Such a delay allows authorities to check the eligibility of potential firearm buyers and block sales to felons and other individuals who don’t meet the requirements to purchase a gun. Anyone caught in violation of the ordinance can be fined up to $500 and face as many as 60 days in jail.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs called the public hearing on the proposed ordinance in April. Less than two weeks prior to that, Jacobs instructed County Attorney Jeff Newton to draft an ordinance reinstating the waiting period, which was struck down following the passage of a 2011 state law that pressured local leaders considering gun regulations. Under that pre-emptive law, local leaders run the risk of removal from office by the governor and a personal fine up to $5,000. 

Orange County Commissioners’ move resembles the City of Orlando’s decision last month to join a growing number of cities across Florida, including Weston, Miramar, Miami Beach and Cutler Bay, among others, in suing the state over penalties associated with the 2011 law.

Statewide, the blowback on the local level comes as a reaction to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 17 students and faculty members dead and 17 more injured.

“The county took a big step forward,” says Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-
click to enlarge Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs - Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs
Orlando, one of those in attendance who spoke during the hearing. “They are revisiting gun safety ordinances that were repealed in years past because of a ridiculous state law that forbids local governments from taking any action on local firearm control, and I think that matters.”

Not all those in attendance favored the ordinance's passage, however.

Zach Detwiler, a committee chair member of the Libertarian Party of Orange County, spoke to at the hearing about his concerns with regulating private firearm sales in public places.

Following the county board’s motion of approval, Detwiler said to Orlando Weekly, “I think the idea of what they accomplished was actually larger than the physicality of what they accomplished.”

Detwiler continued: "I understand, like I said on the stand, we need an actual physical ability for us to run background checks. All this is doing is creating regulation, and regulation doesn't actually provide something. ... While it sounds great, what was accomplished I'm not actually sure."

Even so, Rep. Smith says the county's move matters because local leaders "feel enabled by the electorate to finally take action on these issues.”

“The reality is that there is some gray area as to whether they are violating the state pre-emption law by doing this, which is why I said what I said before," Smith told us. "In this political environment, in 2018, after two horrific mass shootings in the state of Florida, the governor may have a right to remove Mayor Jacobs from office. But I’d like to see him try.”

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