No machine-guns, suppressors for Manatee, Sarasota County residents


 County Sheriff’s reluctant to sign BATF Form 4s.

MANATEE COUNTY – Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube does not want anyone to have a suppressor, short-barrel rifle or machine gun in his county, even if they are legally acquired, federally registered and approved for purchase by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

So far, Steube has refused to sign every request that’s come across his desk, a document known as a BATF Form 4.

Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube

“We receive approximately 50 per year, but the sheriff doesn’t sign any of them because he has no say so as to how the weapons will be used, or who may have access to the weapons,” Steube’s spokesperson Dave Bristow said in an email a while back.

Florida is one of 39 states that allow private citizens to own short-barreled rifles, suppressors or fully-automatic weapons, as long as the purchaser passes a rigid background check, pays a $200 transfer tax per weapon and completes a BATF Form 4.

Of the hundreds of thousands of Class III weapons listed on the federal registry, you don’t need all the fingers on one hand to count the number ever used in the commission of a crime. Most Class III owners who are financially solvent enough to afford the expensive weapons, which can range in price from $5,000 to $250,000-plus, can afford a gun safe or other security measures.

Before the BATF approves a purchase, the agency requires a “chief law enforcement officer,” from the jurisdiction where the purchaser resides to sign the Form 4.

Some sheriffs and chief of police in other parts of the state routinely sign the forms.

Sheriff Steube’s self-imposed ban will make acquiring a legal NFA or Class III weapon more difficult and costly in Manatee County.

Sheriff Tom Knight

Things aren’t much better south of the border.

When asked last year about the number of Form 4s he has signed, Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight said he hasn’t signed any.

The next day, Knight’s spokesperson said the sheriff signed one Form 4 in 2010, of the roughly 10 requests he has received since becoming sheriff.

Knight said he had a blanket denial policy for the requests when he took over as sheriff, but added he doesn’t anymore.

Sarasota’s recently-appointed Police Chief Bernadette DiPino, a former competitive shooter, said she will evaluate Form 4 requests on a “case by case basis.”

“I truly believe in the Second Amendment and the right to keep and bear arms, but we need a process,” she said. “I have to balance someone’s constitutional rights with public safety.”

Sarasota has three NFA, Class III dealers and manufacturers. A few gun ranges allow suppressed or full-auto weapons, as long as the owner has the proper paperwork.

Look for an upcoming story on NFA trusts, a legal document prepared by an attorney that provides a way to own NFA weapons without the need for a signature from a sheriff or chief of police.


About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.


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  2. Robert Brown on

    This is the reason why I have a trust.
    I have purchased 1 suppressor and have it registered and approved by ATF.
    I also have had 2 are lowers approved as SBR and currently gave 2 more suppressors and one more sbr lower currently awaiting approval.
    There are ways, all legal, to get around these anti 2nd amendment, anti constitutional “guardians of society”.
    Although, things will get a hit more difficult when 41f becomes effective in July.

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