UPDATE: No arrests made for Pinellas County background check law


UPDATE: May 30, 4:51 a.m. – Read a follow-up to this story here.

For Guy Lemakos, owner of 2 Guys Gun Show Promotions, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri’s plan to enforce the seldom-used county ordinance requiring background checks for private sales was “much ado about very little.”

No arrests were made either Saturday or Sunday at the 125-table Largo gun show, Lemakos said.

“There was nothing – a normal gun show weekend,” Lemakos said. “We did two background checks for private sales. There were no arrests – no issues. It was much ado about very little.”

Cristen Rensel, spokeswoman for the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, confirmed the lack of enforcement.

“We did not have any arrests or citations issued this weekend at the gun show,” Rensel said.

“Maybe now Sheriff Gualtieri and the County Commission understand that their big attack on gun shows is viewed as political posturing,” said Florida NRA chief Marion Hammer. “Rather than being spun by a reporter, maybe Sheriff Gualtieri should have asked the Commission to suspend the ordinance until someone can prove it’s needed.  Political eye-wash is expensive for taxpayers.”

In an earlier story, Sheriff Gualtieri vowed to start enforcing the little-used county ordinance that requires background checks at local gun shows for all private sales.

Lemakos’ Largo show was the first one scheduled after the sheriff came up with his plan.

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

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

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri

“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 last Thursday.  “The Pinellas County Commission acted years ago to close the loop hole. It makes sense.”

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

“I’m sure they were there,” Lemakos said Tuesday. “But unless they liked guns, I’m sure the deputies were bored as hell.”

Lemakos pointed out that he contacted Gualtieri after stories appeared about the ordinance in the media.

“He [Gualtieri] didn’t know anything about the ordinance until the articles came out,” Lemakos said. “Then, you’d swear they were talking about gun shows skirting the law. I never had any intention of skirting anything. As a promoter, the last thing you want is your vendors getting into trouble, so I contacted them.”

Lemakos estimates he had between 10-15 conversations with the sheriff’s office about how to comply with the ordinance in the weeks leading up to the show.

“All of a sudden it broke in the media up here – this huge firestorm – and people started pointing fingers,” Lemakos said. “The sheriff himself was acting like we never had a single conversation. It was bizarre.”

Other than concerns about undercover deputies arresting a vendor, Lemakos said he had a good show. ARs are becoming more available and dropping in price.

“We had a spike that was unsustainable – panic buying,” he said. “Anyone who didn’t have one ran out to get one. It’s getting better now.”

Ammunition – including .223 – is showing up in “drips and drabs,” Lemakos said, adding that “the price is still stupid.”

He said .22 long rifle remains “completely nonexistent.”


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.