Thirteen years ago, the Pasco County Commission allowed a few hundred gun enthusiasts to run roughshod over the will of more than 69,0000 voters. By killing a proposed ordinance requiring three-day waiting periods and criminal background checks on the purchases of firearms at gun shows and flea markets, Pasco signaled that public safety was a secondary consideration to political expedience.
It was a shameful backpedaling from a commission that asked for the proposal but retreated when presented with petitions from opponents and a debate dominated by off base constitutional arguments and irrelevancy.
Only Commissioner Pat Mulieri remains from that board. She correctly says it is time to revisit the so-called gun show loophole that allows firearm buyers/dealers to circumvent the rules by which retail shops must abide.
"It's a different world we live (in) now than in 1999,'' Mulieri told Times staff writer Lee Logan.
Indeed. More than 1 million concealed weapons permits have been issued in Florida, the state Department of Agriculture announced recently. Those individuals are exempt from the local ordinance aimed at anonymous gun show transactions. More importantly, last month's massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., has brought a renewed urgency to ensuring broad public safety concerns are not trampled by the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
The Pasco Democratic Party recently asked the commission to reconsider the county's stance on the gun show loophole, but the matter already is being wrongly cast as partisan politicking. This is about public safety.
The 1999 Pasco proposal required background checks of gun show purchases to keep firearms out of the hands of convicted felons. Most other county commissions in the Tampa Bay area embraced the measure after voters approved a 1998 constitutional amendment giving counties the authority to close the loophole. In Pasco, more than 69,000 voters, or nearly 73 percent of the turnout, approved that constitutional amendment.
It came after the May 1998 slaying of a child and three police officers by Hank Earl Carr, a felon who obtained weapons at gun shows. Carr shot and killed Florida Highway Patrol Trooper James B. Crooks at I-75 and State Road 54 in Wesley Chapel after previously killing two Tampa Police detectives and his girlfriend's 4-year-old son.
The state renamed a portion of SR 54 after Crooks. An even better way to honor his memory is for the Pasco County Commission to do its part to prevent felons from having easy local access to firearms.