Five years ago, in the wake of the murders at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the state legislature and then-governor Rick Scott passed a number of gun control measures; raising the age to purchase any firearm from 18 to 21, creating a “red flag” law to take guns from those a judge deems to be a threat to themselves or others, and changing the state’s mandatory three-day waiting period on all retail gun sales to allow for an open-ended process that has kept some would-be buyers in limbo for months or even years.
Litigation may very well cause the state’s age restrictions to come crashing down (a lawsuit filed by the National Rifle Association is currently pending in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals), but a state representative is hoping to use the legislative process to modify the waiting period enacted in 2018. Rep. Joel Rudman, a Republican and physician representing portions of the state’s panhandle, believes the current law is an unnecessary impediment to folks exercising their Second Amendment rights.
“In today’s era with modern technology, you should be able to successfully complete a background check in three business days,” said Rep. Rudman.
Florida’s law was changed after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018, giving the state more than three days to get background checks done. Rudman said that led to problems at gun stores.
“We had dozens of law-abiding citizens whose background checks were taking up to two years to complete,” said Rudman.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials say those cases are rare and 98% of transactions are resolved within minutes. The agency completed 82,258 background checks in September 2023.
Florida Gun Owners director Luis Valdes said he wishes the legislature would eliminate waiting periods.
“Ultimately we would like to see the repeal of waiting periods in their entirety because they have been proven time and time again they don’t reduce crime,” Valdes said.
Honestly, I’m with Valdes on this one. Rather than repeal the three-day waiting period, Rudman’s bill simply modifies the existing law to state that “The mandatory waiting period is 3 days, excluding weekends and legal holidays, or expires upon the completion of the records checks required under s. 17 790.065, whichever occurs earlier“, rather than “later” as is currently the case.
In theory, this should resolve the issue with some background checks being delayed for months if not years. The same thing could be accomplished, however, simply by repealing the state-level waiting period altogether. Under federal law, NICS delays can already result in a de facto three-day waiting period (or longer, if the retailer chooses not to proceed with the sale after the 72-hour window has expired), and Rudman’s bill largely mirrors the federal statute while still keeping the state-level waiting period in place.
Rudman’s legislation offers incremental improvement to the status quo, but given the Republican supermajority in Tallahassee I think he could and should push for a more substantive measure; one that would scrap the state-level waiting periods in their entirety. It might be a heavier legislative lift, but it would be of much bigger benefit to the state’s lawful gun purchasers.
Though the legislature doesn’t gavel in for the 2024 session until January bills like Rudman’s are already starting to be introduced and marked up, We’ll see if any of his colleagues are bold enough to introduce a simple repeal bill, but for the time being gun owners in the Sunshine State should be contacting their own representatives and senators and urging them to be bold in defending and securing our Second Amendment rights.