[Disclaimer: The management of Raw Story withheld publication of this piece until after the deadline for obtaining an out-of-state concealed carry permit in the state of Florida in time for the Republican National Convention had passed. Raw Story does not recommend that anyone unfamiliar with firearms carry one, and condemns all violence against others.]
The tragic deaths of 12 people last week in Aurora, Colorado as part of a mass shooting that injured another 59 reignited the national debate about gun control, with conservatives lining up to defend America’s arguably loose gun laws and suggest the tragedy was preventable with the application of more firepower in the theater and liberals suggesting that it was a convincing case for stricter gun control.
In five weeks, the Republican National Convention will get underway in Tampa, Florida — and, due to a state law restricting municipal firearms regulations and Gov. Rick Scott’s (R-FL) unwillingness to provide the city a waiver from that law, legal firearms will be permitted all around the convention center (though not inside of it).
Scott’s reasoning was that, “it is unclear how disarming law-abiding citizens would better protect them from the dangers and threats posed by those who would flout the law.” However, one need not flout the law to bring a gun to the areas just outside the convention. Due to the nation’s patchwork gun laws, it would be quite easy to have ill intentions and bring a perfectly legal firearm to the convention zone.
Here is one way someone from outside of Florida could do just that.
1. Complete a firearms education course
The state of Florida requires all concealed carry permit holders to complete a class in firearms training or safety before applying for a permit. While active duty military personnel and former members with an honorable discharge are exempt, anything from an NRA-sponsored class to one offered by a “junior college” can qualify for the purposes of the permit. A four-hour group NRA Firearms Safety Course in available in Virginia for $85, while pistol orientation classes run about $95 and pistol shooting classes can cost as much as $140. Any qualifies one for a concealed carry permit in Florida.
2. Apply for an out-of-state concealed carry permit.
The state of Florida allows any U.S. citizen to apply for and, under certain conditions, receive a concealed carry permit. (Florida, unlike some states, does not allow residents to openly carry loaded weapons.) In most cases, it will cost applicants $112, which includes a $42 fingerprint and a $70 licensing fee. It will take approximately 90 days to obtain an out-of-state concealed carry permit after the application is submitted.
If one already has a concealed carry permit in one of the 34 states with which Florida has a reciprocity agreement, one could skip this step.
3. Obtain a gun
Though many states require background checks, waiting periods and registration before one can take possession of a handgun from a federally-licensed dealer, the so-called Gun Show Loophole allows occasional sellers — who aren’t licensed under federal law — to sell weapons without background checks. Virginia, for instance, does not require registration and has many gun shows from which to choose.
While federal law prohibits private sales to out-of-state buyers (unless they are classified as relics or curios and mediated through a licensed dealer), it specifically allows private individuals to “loan or rent” their handguns to people in other states “for temporary use.”
Though some states and municipalities (like New York City, which requires $521.50 in fingerprinting and licensing fees and an in-person interview for the license required to have a handgun legally in one’s possession) make handgun buying and registration reasonably onerous, one could also simply purchase a handgun from a licensed dealer in one’s home state and comply with whatever registration requirements exist in that state.
4. Get the gun to Florida
Under federal law, any non-licensee can ship a gun to him- or herself in another state in care of a person in that state for the purpose of “lawful activity.” While you cannot ship it via the U.S. Postal Service, any contract or common carrier is allowed to ship a handgun provided the shipper gives notification.
5. Conceal the weapon on one’s person
As previously noted, it is illegal under Florida law to carry firearm that is not concealed. Anyone wishing to legally bring a handgun into the Republican National Convention’s security zone is obligated to have a concealed carry permit and conceal the weapon on their person.