The Trace

Florida Gun Bill Omits Fix For ‘Lie-and-Try’ Loophole

Florida Senator Randolph Bracy (far left), the sponsor of a "lie-and-try" bill, listens during the debate over the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Student Safety Act on March 5, 2018.

On Thursday night, the Republican-dominated Florida legislature responded to widespread calls for action after the Parkland mass shooting by passing the state’s first significant gun bill in two decades.

The legislation was the product of intense debate by members of the House and Senate. The final version, which was signed by Governor Rick Scott on March 9, references 15 other bills and was amended 231 times.

Left on the sidelines: A bipartisan proposal that would have closed a loophole in state law allowing prospective gun buyers to lie about their criminal histories on background checks without consequences.

An investigation by The Trace and E.W. Scripps TV stations found that Florida appears to be the only state in the U.S. with no way to prosecute “lie-and-try” cases. Last year alone, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement denied more than 12,600 sales to buyers who falsely stated that they were not banned from owning firearms. Over the past decade, FDLE has rejected more than 100,000 would-be buyers.

The most common reason for a denial was a prior conviction for a felony or serious misdemeanor. People who fail background checks are 28 percent more likely to be arrested in the five years following the denial than in the five years before it, according to a study by the Justice Department.

Senator Randolph Bracy, the sponsor of the Senate loophole bill, had hoped his proposal would land a place in the package. He expressed disappointment at its exclusion.

“Although I am disappointed that SB 334 was not heard in committee this session, I will continue working to close the loophole that prevents the state from prosecuting those who lie about their criminal history in an attempt to purchase a firearm,” he said in a statement.

Bracy’s bill would have required the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to notify federal and state law enforcement whenever a prospective gun buyer failed a background check.

As Florida lawmakers began to hash out the omnibus post-Parkland gun bill last weekend, Senator Annette Taddeo, a Democrat from Kendall, separately introduced an amendment to the major gun bill, which would have established a similar alerting requirement. The amendment failed.

Florida’s legislative session ends tomorrow.

This story was published in partnership with the E.W. Scripps Florida stations: ABC Action News, WPTV NewsChannel 5 and FOX 4.