Thanks to state preemption law, only the Florida Legislature can enact measures regulating the sale, possession, transfer of firearms in the Gunshine State.
But that’s not going to stop some city and county officials from attempting to implement ‘voluntary’ gun-control, the Sun-Sentinel reports.
Under a proposal backed by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, city and county officials would ask gun shops and ammo suppliers who have sales contracts with law enforcement departments around the state to follow certain “sales and marketing safeguards,” when conducting business.
Those safeguards include asking the stores to run background checks on employees, train personnel to identify telltale signs of straw purchasing, run periodic inventory checks to account for lost or stolen firearms and researching the chain of possession on firearms traded in to see if they’ve been used in a crime, among others.
Commissioners of Broward debated whether the program would violate state law.
“This is not regulating,” insisted Commissioner Dale Holness. “This is coordinating a voluntary effort to ensure that gun sales are done in such a way that the people are protected.”
“Gun violence, gun crime, is a very serious issue,” Holness continued, “and it affects our community. Whatever we can do to work to ensure we’re reducing this is going to be in the best interest of the people in Broward County.’
But Commissioner Marty Kiar wasn’t so sure that the proposal didn’t overstep the law.
“I don’t know if Gov. Scott would agree with that,” said Commissioner Kiar, in response to Holness’ comment. “And I don’t have a lot of confidence in what he believes, as it is.”
Casey Woods, the founder of Arms with Ethics, an organization that promotes voluntary gun-control, said that it was designed “specifically to stay within the parameters of the state law,” adding, “I think it’s important for the average citizen to know that law has a chilling effect on their local leaders trying to take steps to make them safe.’
While the movement is similar to a 2006 Mayors Against Illegal Guns effort to pressure Wal-Mart to agree to self-imposed sales practices, Woods says this is different.
“It’s a first step toward helping to raise standards in the industry using existing relationships the police departments have, and broadening out in time,” explained Woods.
Arms with Ethics is also having success in New Jersey, where the mayor of Jersey City is asking gun dealers and ammo suppliers to provide extensive information on how they conduct business before bidding on government contracts.
It appears Arms with Ethics is gaining ground, which has at least one gun-rights group on guard.
“Arms with Ethics is nothing more than a ‘special interest’ group trying to get the county to implement its gun control agenda,” Marion Hammer, National Rifle Association past president and the Executive Director of Unified Sportsmen of Florida told Guns.com Thursday. “How would the county react to NRA urging them to require all heads of household to have guns in the home for protection because 911 response time is so slow?”
Florida, with its pro-gun laws and its 1.2 million concealed-carry permit holders, has also seen a steady decline in violent crime for the past twenty years. Among these gun laws is the 2011 preemption statute, which would preclude Broward from making their program mandatory.
This leaves some perplexed at the wording of Broward County’s new initiative.
“No clear thinking county official would believe they can violate the law by establishing gun control criteria and escape punishment by calling it ‘sales and marketing safeguards,'” stated Hammer.
Hammer explains that the structure of the program could negatively affect those who do not comply, by making them ineligible for contracts with local police, saying, “Previous reports revealed that gun and ammunition vendors who sell to law enforcement agencies would lose that business if they refuse to ”voluntarily’ adhere to gun control standards imposed by the county. That’s not voluntary compliance, that’s coercion, and loss of business is punitive.”
Guns.com writer Chris Eger contributed to this article