Florida may be missing vital pieces of information when it screens concealed carry permit applications because it does not check the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). NICS contains 1.6 million records of people nationwide with mental illness. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which screens permit applications, does run applicants names’ through four databases, but none contain nationwide data on mental illness.
According to the Sun Sentinel investigation, Florida’s system of ingorning the federal database when granting concealed carry permits may have a significant affect on who can carry guns nationwide.
Florida can’t use the NICS system for concealed carry permits because a criminal justice agency doesn’t administer the licensing program.
As a result, gun control advocates say, Florida could be missing potentially vital pieces of information for weeding out individuals with a history of mental illness.
“It seems incredibly silly and dangerous to public safety to let this information rest on the shelf,” said Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Washington-based Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. “People with dangerous mental health histories should not be allowed to carry firearms in Florida.” [...]
The background screening gap is particularly significant because Florida is a go-to place nationwide for gun carry permits that then are valid in other states through so-called reciprocity agreements.
Florida has 952,000 active concealed weapon licenses. Nearly 12 percent are held by out-of-state residents, according to the Agriculture Department.
The NRA, a potent lobbying force for pro-gun laws, has been a driving force behind reciprocity laws, which, combined with Florida’s inadequate background checks, may be pointing Americans at risk. While most states check NICS before granting a concealed carry permit, many have also maintain reciprocity agreements, which honor permits granted by other states. Thirty-five states honor concealed carry permits granted by Florida to Florida residents, while thirty-one honor permits granted by Florida to non-residents. Reciprocity agreements allow potential gun owners to shop around for the state with the least stringent permit laws, and then force other states to honor their permit.
The revelation that Florida’s practices lax background checks when screening concealed carry applications comes at a time when gun laws are becoming increasingly less strict. Since 1980, forty-four states have passed laws that allow gun owners to carry concealed weapons, and Illinois remains the only state not to allow concealed carry in any circumstance. In 2004, the federal assault weapon ban expired, and since 2005, twenty-one states have passed “stand your ground” laws. The United States has the highest rate of civilian gun ownership of any country in the world.