Lie and try… That’s what it’s called when someone who can’t legally own a gun lies on a firearms background check to try to get one anyway.
Lying on a background check is not only a federal felony, but third-degree felony in Florida.
WINK News found rarely are those people punished according to state and federal records.
Domestic abuse survivor Lisa shared her concern. We’re not using her last name because she is a victim. While her former abuser did not threaten her with a firearm, she says it’s critical law enforcement investigates these offenses.
Lisa said, “It can be the difference between becoming an ultimate tragic victim, or becoming a survivor who lives to tell the story.”
Right now, if a person is convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, or has a restraining order for domestic violence, he or she cannot purchase a firearm.
What happens when an abuser, or anyone who legally can’t get a gun, tries to get one anyway?
They can be arrested.
To do that, all law enforcement has to do is ask the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for a list of people who fail the background check.
While the list is available to any law enforcement agency, only two in Southwest Florida request it.
Collier County Sheriff’s Office and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.
Capt. Rod Bishop with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office says for years, their investigators have gone after people lying on background checks.
“We thought – what is a proactive, easy way to keep firearms out of people’s hands that shouldn’t have them. Pretty basic goal, and I think that it’s not too massive of a group of people that you would think, but we’re obviously making the right arrests,” Bishop said.
Why isn’t every agency getting that list of possible offenders?
FDLE sent an email saying:
“State, County, and Municipal law enforcement agencies who request non-approval data are provided with a report at the beginning of the month for the previous month.”
Meaning, if an agency doesn’t ask for the lists, they won’t know who is trying to break the law.
Other law enforcement agencies told us they either leave it up to the feds, or did not have a comment.
Capt. Bishop told us it could be a resource issue.
Recently, state Senator Randolph Bracy and state Representative Bobby DuBose, both Democrats, tried to change that.
Their bill [S.B. 334] would require FDLE to automatically notify law enforcement of those non-approvals, whether or not anyone asks.
Both bills died in Criminal Justice Subcommittee, but they plan to present it again.
In 2017—12,472 out of 990,314 or 1.26 percent of background checks were not-approved in Florida. Non-approvals do not always mean someone is lying.
Whatever the percentage, Capt. Bishop says for his office, using resources is to catch the criminals, is worth it.
“If we save one victim from a shooting, we win.”
As for Lisa, she hopes more agencies will follow in Collier and Lee Counties’ footsteps.
“I hope the rest will start doing it. We need to. Our lives depend on it.”