Targeting background checks: The loophole that could put guns in the wrong hands

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Nearly 20 years ago, the once unthinkable happened at Columbine High School in Colorado. Two students opened fire on campus killing 13 and wounding more than 20.

The shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, bought most of their weapons from a friend who purchased the firearms from private sellers at a gun show in Denver where no background check was required.

In 2012, a man stormed a Wisconsin salon, shooting and killing his estranged wife and two of her co-workers before turning the gun on himself.

According to the Wisconsin Courts, Radcliffe Haughton Jr. wasn’t supposed to have a firearm because of a restraining order against him. Officials say he bypassed a background check by buying from a private seller.

Federally licensed firearm dealers are required to do background checks. In Florida, private sellers are not. This law is often referred to as the ‘Gun Show Loophole.’

WINK News attended a Fort Myers gun show last month at the Lee Civic Center.

Calling private party sales a ‘Gun Show Loophole’ can be misleading.

“It’s a law that was put in place a long time ago and it doesn’t just apply to gun shows,” Shoot Straight gun show manager Michael Wilcox said.

Gun shows often, however, provide a place for private sellers to set up, and for others to buy. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms estimates as many as 5,000 gun shows happen each year across the country.

“If two people want to meet at someone’s house and buy a gun from one another, right now according to state law and even federal law, that’s totally allowed,’ Wilcox said.

Off camera, some private sellers told us they’d consider running a check, while other feel the current law and their judgment are good enough.

Private sellers can also have a licensed dealer help them with a sale.

One attendee says he sees the common sense behind universal background checks.

“I’m not going to go out and march for something like that but if it happens, I wouldn’t be opposed to it,” Larry Umbras said.

Florida’s new gun bill [SB 7026] passed after the Parkland School shooting still doesn’t strengthen background checks.

A 1998 Constitutional Amendment allows Florida counties, not cities, to require a three to five day waiting period and additional checks.

Eight counties—Broward, Hillsborough, Leon, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Sarasota and Volusia—have taken advantage of the option.

Meanwhile, the debate in the state and on Capitol Hill surrounding universal background checks continue.

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