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PolitiFact Florida On Post-Parkland Gun Claims

Sen. Cory Booker D-N.J., questions Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill,  Jan. 16,  in Washington
AP Photo/PolitiFact Florida
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Do just one percent of licensed gun dealers supply more than half the guns recovered in crimes? And is Florida one of the only states that prohibits a gun registry? WUSF's Steve Newborn gets the answers from PolitiFact Florida's Allison Graves.

Click here to listen to the conversation between WUSF's Steve Newborn and Allison Graves of PolitiFact Florida

As tens of thousands of students across the country walked out of their schools to protest gun violence, members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee examined school safety procedures and gun policies ahead of the Parkland school shooting.  

During the hearing, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., repeated a talking point among people who support gun restrictions and expressed the need to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. He said most guns used in crime come from only a handful of places.

"We know the research shows that 1 percent of licensed dealers supply a whopping 57 percent of the guns that are recovered in crimes," Booker said March 14, a month after the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling on that claim:

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel

Booker's point matches data from a 2000 reportfrom the federal Bureau of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Department.

The report found that 1.2 percent of licensed gun dealers accounted for more than 57 percent of the crime guns traced to current dealers in 1998. The study looked at the number of licensed retail dealers and pawnbrokers nationwide and aimed to track the movement of a firearm recovered by law enforcement officials from its first sale by the manufacturer.

An ATF spokesman said the agency no longer uses that study to evaluate current crime trends.

Frank Kelsey, chief of the public affairs division at ATF, said tracing a gun used in a crime back to a dealer does not necessarily indicate illegal activity by the dealer or its employees. And he noted that a gun might have changed hands any number of times — legally or illegally — before it was used in a crime.

That said, there isn’t any more up-to-date information on the subject — and there’s a reason for that.

In 2003, Congress and the George W. Bush administration, with the support of the National Rifle Association, passed the Tiahrt Amendment, which forbids ATF from sharing information about guns it has traced with the public except with state and local police agencies in the course of a criminal investigation.

Booker’s statement is partially accurate but leaves out important information about the study's age. We rate this claim Half True.

Continuing our look at guns claims in the wake of the Parkland shootings, State Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, is calling for reversing a law that restricts information on gun purchases.

During a state Senate rules committee meeting, he said Florida is one of only 10 states that totally ban "a statewide gun registry."  And that, he says, leaves law enforcement "in the dark" as they try to figure out if a threatening person has a weapon or not.

Here's PolitFact Florida's ruling on Thurston's claim:

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel

Florida law does prohibit a firearm registry, based on Florida Statute 790.335:

"No state governmental agency or local government, special district, or other political subdivision or official, agent, or employee of such state or other governmental entity or any other person, public or private, shall knowingly and willfully keep or cause to be kept any list, record, or registry of privately owned firearms or any list, record, or registry of the owners of those firearms."

The rule was added in 2004 when former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush signed HB 155 into law.

Then-Rep. Lindsay Harrington, R-Punta Gorda, sponsored the bill because of concerns from the National Rifle Association, according to a July 2004 St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times) article. The story said Harrington was troubled when he heard that law enforcement agencies were collecting data on gun transactions at pawn shops, saying "I don't think we, in America, want that type of thing."

The law echoes this concern. It says such a registry could "become an instrument for profiling, harassing, or abusing law-abiding citizens based on their choice to own a firearm." The statute also says if a registry fell into the wrong hands it could be a "shopping list" for criminals.

So how does Florida’s ban on private firearm records compare to the rest of the country?

A Thurston spokeswoman said his information came from the Giffords Law Center.

The center, which supports gun restrictions, says seven states, including Florida, prohibit any registry of private firearms.

The seven states are Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Vermont. Pennsylvania prohibits registries of long guns.

Only one state, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia require registration of all firearms.

We rate this statement Mostly True.


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Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.