Sheriff Gualtieri’s background check plan


Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has vowed to start enforcing a little-used county ordinance that requires background checks at local gun shows for all private sales.

Gualtieri’s plan begins tomorrow.

The ordinance has gathered dust since it was enacted in 1998. Violators face misdemeanor charges.

Gualtieri is evidently the first Pinellas County lawman to order his troops to enforce this law.

It does raise the question: why now?

“This is curious timing. One might wonder, since Sheriff Gualtieri apparently has not enforced the ordinance previously, if he is now just making a political statement in support of President Obama’s gun control agenda or if he really thinks there is some overriding public need here,” Florida NRA chief Marion Hammer said Thursday.

She’s concerned, rightfully so, for the welfare of the attendees at the next gun show.

“I would hope he makes sure he has posted signs or caused signs to be posted, notifying an unsuspecting public that he is suddenly going to be enforcing an ordinance that few people know is even in existence,” she said. “Part of his job is serving the people — not entrapping them.”

Gualtieri said Thursday he “naively” assumed the ordinance was being enforced, until contacted by a reporter a month ago, and that unless his deputies start cracking down, a “ludicrous and ridiculous situation will result.”

“We’ve got this situation where federal law comes into play, and state law – they don’t take care of all of the scenarios,” he said. “The Pinellas County Commission acted years ago to close the loop hole. It makes sense.”

Gualtieri said his deputies will “monitor” sales at an upcoming gun show, but added that this monitoring will also involve undercover operations.

I don’t spend a lot of time in Pinellas County. I prefer life here in sleepy, sedate Sarasota County, where our top cops utilize their scant undercover resources the old fashioned way, by going after drug dealers.

Sarasota County Sheriff’s deputies won’t be monitoring background checks anytime soon, according to sheriff’s office spokeswoman Wendy Rose, who said, “we will not enforce any local ordinances or regulations pertaining to firearms until further legislative action clarifies our ability to do so.”

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri

Maybe Pinellas County street thugs are buying their weapons at gun shows. I’d love to see some stats on this. Here, they steal them during daytime burglaries, buy them from other thugs or trade them for drugs.

Maybe Pinellas County gun shows have more private sellers than most shows. Every firearm I’ve ever purchased at a gun show – and there have been a few – has been from an FFL holder, a gun dealer who ran a background check as required by federal law.

I’ve never met Sheriff Gualtieri, so I can’t question his motives. I can, however, question who’s going to enforce his new mandate.

Most cops are very conservative and decidedly pro-gun.

A national survey of more than 15,000 active law enforcement officers showed overwhelming opposition to gun control initiatives.

Busting grandpa in the parking lot for selling his shotgun without a dealer transfer ain’t in their DNA. It’s not reasonable – an important word in law enforcement.

Despite the posturing, pandering and the frothing at the mouth from their superiors about the issue du jour, there’s still one bit of freedom a street cop enjoys: the freedom to ignore something they don’t consider a real crime – the ability to not see something they don’t want to see.

The brass never really want to talk about that.

I wish the sheriff’s new gun show squad good luck, and hope everyone remains safe.

I also hope they remain reasonable.



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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