Gal­vano’s lead­er­ship on gun safety is po­lit­i­cally risky, but coura­geous

Orlando Sentinel - - OPINION -

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.


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