Hundreds of people signed up Tuesday night to be heard on a Leon County firearm ordinance. The county approved a new rule that requires background checks and a waiting period for private guns sales.
Commissioner Mary Ann Lindley pushed for a hearing on the ordinance. She says background checks are a regular occurrence these days.
“We all also have background checks when we get passports, when we sign up to mentor or read to children in our public schools, legislative employees have background checks. So I don’t think we’re adverse to background checks except for a few employees, and we don’t know who they are, who wish to buy a firearm and skip through any possible impediment to their getting a fire arm quickly,” Lindley says.
Lindley says she doesn’t think it’s onerous to ask a dealer at a gun show to conduct a background check before selling a firearm. But County Attorney Herbert Thiele says the ordinance doesn’t just apply to purchases made at gun shows.
"That could include a myriad of things, but primarily it is gun shows, garage sales, estate sales and the like," Thiele says.
Commissioners considered limiting the ordinance to allow sales in places like parking lots without requiring a background check or waiting period, but Thiele says making a change from the language already contained in the state constitution could put the county at risk of lawsuits.
“My recommendation would be to not modify the constitutional language and create any exemptions. I think once you begin to do that then it’s a slippery slope to somebody saying you’re regulating fire arms differently than that which is authorized in the constitution,” Thiele says.
But Commissioner Bryan Desolge says he doesn’t like the idea of limiting the behavior of private citizens at home.
“For me, that is a break point for me. If we said the gun show loophole affects the gun show, I don’t have a problem with that. I worry that the rest of this, really accomplishes not much other than, I hate to say this other than it’s going to be hard to regulate other that, really I don’t think it’s going to have any effect,” Desloge says.
Commissioner John Dailey says it won’t come to that. He says the ordinance will be largely enforced through complaints. He asked County Administrator Vince Long to explain how that would work.
“What would happen would be that code enforcement would be sent out to determine if that activity was occurring. If they were able to determine that there was a violation either the people would come into compliance or law enforcement would be called,” Long says.
Long says the plan won't include enforcement officers driving from yard sale to yard sale on the weekends to check for code violations.
Commissioners passed the ordinance. They’ve directed staff to come back to them in six months so they can look at how the new rule is working and whether it needs to be tweaked.