Galvano’s leadership on gun safety is politically risky, but courageous
When it comes to firearms in Florida, the arc has bent toward less regulation for more than 20 years.
From “stand your ground” to “docs vs. Glocks,” Florida’s been on the front lines in the effort to weaken gun laws at the expense of common sense.
In his final year as Senate president, Bill Galvano is trying to bend that arc — just a little — back toward common sense.
Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, is championing a bill that, among other things, would not close but would narrow Florida’s so-called gun-show loophole.
Simply put, if you’re a licensed firearms retailer in Florida you have to check and see if the guy who’s trying to buy a gun has been convicted of a felony, which in most cases means he isn’t allowed to buy a gun.
No such requirement exists if that same guy goes to a gun show and buys a firearm from an unlicensed dealer. The buyer might be a convicted murderer, but the law doesn’t require a background check to find out. The same loophole exists if the murderer is buying a gun from a private party through an online ad.
In other words, even the dumbest ex-con can easily find a way around Florida’s background check law.
To the annoyance of the National Rifle Association, Senate Bill 7028 would change that.
Someone selling a firearm at a public place — a gun show, for example — would have to get a licensed dealer to run a criminal background check for them.
If the transaction is a person-to-person sale not occurring at a public place, the seller of the gun would have to check the buyer’s ID to ensure they’re old enough to buy a gun, then create a record of the transaction and ask about the buyer’s bona fides, such as whether he’s a drug addict or a fugitive.
The bill has several other worthwhile provisions, like requiring people to lock up a loaded gun at home if anyone under 18 lives there (the law currently requires securing weapons if someone is younger than 16).
The bill received a unanimous, bipartisan vote Monday in the Senate’s Infrastructure and Security Committee, where four Republicans and three Democrats voted to move the bill along.
It’s not a perfect answer to the problem, for sure.
But at least Galvano is looking for answers. At least he’s trying to generate a debate rather than just wringing his hands or pretending the problem doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter. At least he isn’t bowing and scraping before the NRA, as so many of his colleagues have done for so many years.
At least Galvano’s displaying some political courage, just as he did a couple of years ago by leading the legislative response to the massacre of students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
That bill increased the age for buying a rifle from 18 to 21. It banned “bump stocks,” an vile little accessory that allows a semiautomatic rifle to behave more like a fully automatic weapon. It created a “red flag” law so police could seek a court order to take someone’s guns if they pose a threat to themselves or others.
It also set up a “guardian” program, where trained school staffers could carry firearms; a provision was extended to teachers last year.
We didn’t agree with that last part. But we’re on the hunt for better, not perfect. So is Galvano, who’s something of a throwback in casting off ideological purity in this instance to do what’s right for Floridians.
Galvano may feel liberated, knowing this is his final year in the Senate. We don’t know of his plans after this, but we do know that his principled actions on the firearms front will make another run for public office as a Republican more difficult.
All the more reason to appreciate Galvano’s willingness to force this debate. We’ve grown far too accustomed to elected officials calculating their decisions on their political ambitions.
Galvano has a tough road ahead. House Speaker José Oliva isn’t on board. Gov. Ron DeSantis, who isn’t dumb, is playing dumb, wondering what everyone means by this “exemption for gun shows.” (It’s not an exemption, governor, it’s a loophole. Please see the explanation above for clarification.)
DeSantis and Oliva are out of sync with public sentiment on gun issues. Galvano isn’t, and he’s willing to tick off the party’s base to do the right thing.
In his gracious remarks to open the state lawmaking session Tuesday, Galvano asked his colleagues to “let us conduct our business with the discipline to focus on the big picture for Florida, not personal agendas.”
We hope his colleagues were listening.
Private firearms sales at gun shows don’t require a criminal background check for the buyer. Senate President Bill Galvano wants to change that.