Some Pinellas officials, including a Republican, want to change state gun laws listen02/27/13 Janelle Irwin
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Some elected officials in Pinellas County want state legislators to support tougher background checks for purchasing guns. But an attempt to disguise the effort through a name change met little support among state lawmakers during the Pinellas County Legislative Delegation meeting Tuesday in Clearwater. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, a Republican, asked legislators to consider renaming criminal background checks during the gun buying process to better reflect what the term really means.
â€œWhat is being done is to determine whether somebody, because of a felony conviction or because of an adjudication of mental health issues that they are then prohibited from buying a firearm, but itâ€™s not a vetting. Itâ€™s not a background check in the sense that somebody is trying to determine whether somebody is suitable for the gun or not. So, weâ€™re calling it by this broad term of background check that connotes something that people have misinterpreted and have a misperception of whatâ€™s actually being done as opposed to whatâ€™s not being done.â€
Gualtieri said that some of the few reasons to restrict a person from buying a gun are if they have a felony record, certain verifiable mental health issues or recent domestic battery charges. Those instances wouldnâ€™t cover a husband who wasnâ€™t charged in a domestic dispute, but threatened to kill his wife. Even though Gualtieri requested a change, he repeatedly insisted that didnâ€™t mean he supports stricter gun control laws. Despite that, lawmakers like St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes werenâ€™t buying it.
â€œThe effect is going to be the same. So, whether you call it a background check or a criminal history check or a mental illness check, the effect is still going to be the same and I think it may lead to further confusion about what is checked and what is not checked because what is criminal history check if not a background check? What is a mental illness check if not a background check? So, I think thatâ€™s where weâ€™d quickly find ourselves in the exact same situation weâ€™re in today which is, what does this actually cover?
â€œSo, you wouldnâ€™t support legislation toâ€¦â€
â€œIâ€™m saying by simply renaming it, you might get back to the exact same place where you are which is, what is a criminal history check, what is a mental illness check, what is a background check?â€
Brandes was quick to defend the Second Amendment when Democratic Representative Dwight Dudley suggested more vetting be done by law enforcement of a personâ€™s ability to safely own a firearm.
â€œThere was some conversation â€“ Representative Dudley was talking about whether we should expand dramatically the power we give law enforcement officers to restrict gun ownership and thatâ€™s really where I had some concerns is where you could have a very young police officer check a box on some forms and prohibit a law abiding citizen from owning a firearm.â€
The issue was brought up by Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long who is a former state Representative. She says gun control has become a national issue since the Sandy Hook shooting in December and lawmakers need to start talking about it.
â€œItâ€™s unfortunate that we have to couch this serious discussion with all kinds of subterfuge about letâ€™s just change the name and not call it a background check because it really isnâ€™t.â€
Long said she realizes there isnâ€™t much chance of a gun control measure making it very far in the Republican-controlled state legislature, but claimed her experience has taught her to bring it up anyway.