Florida lawmakers want to end 3-day waiting periods for rifles, shotguns

Gun Rights

A Southwest Florida state senator wants to eliminate a statewide three-day waiting period to buy a rifle or a shotgun, undoing one of the changes enacted after the Parkland mass shooting.

State Sen. Jonathan Martin’s bill would keep the waiting period in place for handgun purchases while ending it for other firearms.

The Fort Myers Republican’s proposal (SB 1124) has alarmed gun control advocates who fear it will make it easier for unstable people to quickly access weapons, including the AR-15 rifle used in some of the nation’s deadliest mass shootings.

“The last thing we need is to change state law to allow people to make impulse purchases of AR-15s,” said Carlos Guillermo Smith, a former Orlando Democratic state representative running for state Senate. “This law has saved lives. There is no reason whatsoever to repeal it.”

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Martin did not respond to an email and message from the Orlando Sentinel seeking comment Friday. In an interview with Florida’s Voice, Martin said the intent of the bill is to eliminate long delays for law-abiding Floridians waiting for their background check to clear.

“Right now, there have been situations where people have been waiting months and months and months with no end in sight,” Martin told Florida’s Voice.

Such situations are rare with 98% of all transactions being resolved within minutes, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Under existing law, the mandatory waiting period to buy a gun is either three days, excluding weekends and holidays, or the time it takes to complete the required criminal background check — whichever occurs later.

Another bill (HB 17) filed by state Rep. Joel Rudman, R-Navarre, would reverse that to “whichever occurs earlier,” allowing buyers to get a gun as soon as the background check is completed.

Under existing law. the mandatory waiting period doesn’t apply to holders of concealed weapons permits.

Supporters of “cooling-off” periods say they reduce suicides and homicides by delaying access to firearms for buyers dealing with bouts of rage or despair. One 2017 study by a trio of Harvard University researchers found that waiting periods led to a 17% reduction in gun homicides.

The National Rifle Association and other gun rights groups dispute those findings and argue that the waiting periods “only burden law-abiding gun owners without changing how or when criminals obtain firearms.”

Domestic violence victims and others fearful for their safety shouldn’t have to wait to get a firearm, said Luis Valdes, Florida State Director for Gun Owners of America.

“A right delayed is a right denied,” he said. “We don’t have waiting periods for any other constitutional right. These laws don’t stop criminals. Criminals could use other tools to commit violent acts.”

In 1990, 84.5% of Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment requiring a three-day waiting period for handguns. A 1998 constitutional amendment supported by 72% of voters allowed counties decide whether to impose up to a five-day waiting period for the purchase of any firearm, including rifles and shotguns

The Parkland school shooter legally purchased his weapon at the age of 18 from a gun shop in Broward County, which had a five-day waiting period on the books. The Feb. 14, 2018, massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School killed 17 students and staff.

Following that shooting, state lawmakers passed a statewide three-day waiting period for long guns and raised the age to buy a rifle from 18 to 21.

Earlier this year, Gov. Ron DeSantis and state lawmakers ended permit requirements for carry a concealed weapon in public. A measure to lower the age to buy a rifle to 18 passed the Florida House but failed in the Senate.

Lawmakers start their next 60-day session on Jan. 9.

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