Florida Newspaper Article


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AHMiller1776
February 15, 2004, 05:20 PM
Gun debate continues on

Ownership laws too limiting, not strict enough?

BY JOHN A. TORRES
FLORIDA TODAY

328,929.

That's the number of Floridians who can legally walk around with a concealed gun.

Of those, 10,816 live in Brevard County. That's a little more than the population of West Melbourne. Up nearly 3,000 in the past two years.

For 77-year-old Melbourne resident Hank Reis El-Bara, retired from the Army Special Forces, carrying his gun wherever he goes is a way of life.

"I carry it with me all the time. If I saw people in trouble, I would not hesitate to use it," he said. "There will be no victims on my watch."

It's a decision that scores of people make each year -- to own or not own a gun for personal protection. Gun laws have not changed much in the state for the past decade, but there is still a bitter divide between those who say the laws are too lax and those who say the government imposes too much control.

Gun control advocates bemoan the lack of universal background checks for a concealed gun license while gun owners say gun control legislation is aimed at the wrong people.

"There's a saying in gun shops that an armed society is a polite society," said Bob Griggs, owner of B&H Gun Rack on Merritt Island and an opponent of some of the current regulations. "If you want to cut down on violent crimes, then prosecute for felons having guns, not by adding more regulations."

Reis El-Bara said he taught his wife to shoot and is confident he could repel any home invasion.

"If someone breaks into my home, they will get their ??? shot off," he said.

Blaine Rummel, a spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, based in Washington, said the lack of a universal background check system makes it easy to get a gun -- especially in Florida.

"Unfortunately, Florida, like many other southern states, has very lax gun laws," Rummel said. "You can get a gun through classified ads, through gun shows and private sales and no background checks are needed. A criminal can get a gun very easily in Florida."

Some states, like New York, require every gun to be registered. But in Florida, officials have no way of tracking the number of guns and exactly who owns them. State officials can track those who have concealed weapons licenses.

You need a concealed weapons license only if you plan to carry your gun. You don't need one to keep a gun in your home.

"We have no idea how many (there are)," said Wayne Holmes with the Brevard County State Attorney's office.

The Brady Act, established in 1994, requires licensed dealers to conduct criminal background checks before any gun sale can proceed. But nationally, 40 percent of guns are sold by unlicensed dealers. They don't have to run a check. Who can carry?A concealed weapons license means just that, concealed. You are not allowed to carry the weapon in a way that others can see it. Even with the license it is illegal to carry a gun into a bar, school building, police station, jail, courthouse, polling place, professional sporting event or government meeting.

There are only three basic requirements for those looking to get a concealed weapons license:


You must either be a U.S. citizen or deemed a lawful permanent resident alien by the Dept. of Homeland Security.

You must be at least 21 years old.

You must prove that you are competent in firing a handgun.
You can't get a concealed weapons license if you have:


Felony convictions

Convictions for misdemeanor crimes of violence

A record of drug or alcohol abuse

Two or more DUI convictions within the previous three years

Or the physical inability to handle a gun safely among others.
John Massa, a Melbourne resident and business owner, has bought and sold guns. He owns 10 now, has a concealed weapons license and carries a gun with him at all times.

"I've carried my handgun on me every day for the past 10 years. I've never had to use it and I hope I never have to, but it makes me feel safe and secure to know that if two guys jump me, I can defend my life," he said. "This is a harsh planet we live on."

Massa, along with his two brothers, owns Blue Diamond Pawn Shop in Palm Bay, Best Pawn Shop in Melbourne and Beachside Pawn shop in Indian Harbour Beach. He said he has been around guns his whole life. His father was a gun owner and taught him about them at a young age.

"I believe children need to be taught responsibility about guns at an early age," he said.

Fifteen percent of those licensed to carry concealed weapons in Florida are women, according to data furnished by the Florida Department of Agriculture. Women between the age of 21 and 50 account for 27,520 licensees, up from 22,815 just two years ago.

These numbers that do not surprise Massa, who said many of his customers are women looking to trade in their handgun for another one.

"You would be surprised to know how many girls have a permit to carry a concealed weapon and actually keep a handgun in their purse," he said.

Cooling Off

When buying a handgun at a store there is a three-day waiting period – three business days – called the cooling off period. The cooling off period was put in place to prevent people from buying a gun in a fit of anger and then going off to use it on someone.

But Griggs called the 10-year-old law just another bureaucratic obstacle, especially since it does not apply to gun shows, the Internet, and classified sales.

"Millions of gun buyers are forced to make multiple trips and jump through hoops," Griggs said, adding that the government's regulations have little effect. "If a person wants to murder someone and they have to wait three days then they will get charged up again in three days. And it's ridiculous because the law is only for stores."

Rummel, the gun control advocate, said he was pleased that federal legislation is in the works to make sure gun sales at gun shows have background checks, but it still is not enough. He also doubts that lawmakers would go against the strong NRA lobby.

"Our reports show that 40 percent of gun transactions nationally do not require a background check under the law," he said. "You can prevent 120,000 gun sales a year with a universal background check in place."

The debate over gun control and the right to bear arms is not likely to be settled anytime soon, but for Reis El-Bara, it's all about the right to defend.

"The political correctness crap going on is going to be the death of this country," Reis El-Bara said. "Pretty soon we'll get to the point where we are afraid to defend ourselves."

Contact Torres at 242-3649 or jtorres@flatoday.net



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The primary reason I posted this article is that the author is presenting both sides of the argument... which seems to be a rarity these days.

I think it would be a good idea for each of us to send a little message to the author, thanking him for reporting the news like it's SUPPOSED to be reported.

His email address is jtorres@floridatoday.com


Regards,

AHMiller

GOA, NRA, SAF

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Hkmp5sd
February 15, 2004, 05:31 PM
Antigunners: Gun Control Advocate
Progunners: NRA Lobby

Some states, like New York, require every gun to be registered. But in Florida, officials have no way of tracking the number of guns and exactly who owns them.

New York: Registration - No CCWs - High Crime Rates
Florida: No Registration - Shall Issue CCW - Low Crime Rates

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