Rep. Lori Berman, Sen. Maria Sachs, Rep. Bobby Powell
Acknowledging their proposal to close a “gun show loophole” is a long shot, two Democratic Palm Beach County lawmakers are hoping their identical bills will at least create a debate about the issue during the 2013 legislative session now underway.
Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, and Rep. Lori Berman, D-Lantana, pitched their identical “Universal Background Check Act” bills (HB 1343, SB 1640) that would require background check every time a gun is sold.
“I am not so sold on the idea that this bill is going to pass. I’m being very candid with you,” Sachs told reporters after a press conference Wednesday afternoon. “But let’s have the discussion. Let’s bring everybody to the table and let’s have this discussion so that we have a gun policy in this state that’s reflective of the diversity of the state.”
Currently, a person buying a weapon in a gun store must pass law enforcement background checks, but persons buying arms at gun shows or privately from an owner do not, meaning they could be felons or otherwise prohibited from owning weapons.
Sachs and Berman, joined by county commissioners Mary Lou Berger, Paulette Burdick and Shelley Vana, former commissioner Burt Aaronson and state Rep. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach, said they both support Second Amendment rights.
But Berman cited figures from the Coalition to End Gun Violence that showed that background checks are only completed on about 60 percent of the gun sales in the country.
“The issue is that we need to stop the proliferation of people having guns and we need to make sure it’s all being done in a correct, proper and legal manner and that anybody who’s buying a gun has to do it through the proper channels. And that’s what this bill tries to address,” she said.
The bill would require anyone who wants to transfer or sell a gun to use a licensed gun dealer to conduct the transaction. The dealer would be responsible for the background check. If the buyer is ineligible to purchase the gun, the dealer would have to run a background check on the seller in order to return it.
If neither person passes the background requirements, the dealer would have to turn over the gun to the local sheriff within 24 hours.
“This is not a gun show loophole bill. It is a universal background check bill. And it is so brazen it even includes confiscation of firearms,” said National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer, a former president of the national association.
But Vana, a former state representative, said the bill makes sense.
“This is a no-nonsense, non-radical method of trying to rein in the terror that has rained down on our citizens,” Vana said.
Hammer says federal law already makes it a felony to sell a gun to anyone a seller knows or reasonably should have known is prohibited from purchasing a firearm.
The bill goes way beyond “fixing a perceived problem,” Hammer said.
“It’s not about keeping guns out of the hands of criminals. It’s about making criminals out of law abiding people and taking their guns.”