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By Romy Ellenbogen March 8, 2018

Does Florida prohibit a gun registry? By law, yes

In the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting, a Florida senator called for the reversal of a key restriction in current law over gun purchases.

Florida's ban on a statewide gun registry "leaves law enforcement in the dark" as they try to figure out if a threatening person has a weapon or not, said Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale.

"Florida is one of only 10 states that totally prohibit a registry," Thurston said at Senate Rules Committee meeting where members discussed a school security and gun safety bill.  

PolitiFact Florida wanted to look into his statement.

Florida law does prohibit a firearm registry, based on Florida Statute 790.335:

"No state governmental agency or local government, special district, or other political subdivision or official, agent, or employee of such state or other governmental entity or any other person, public or private, shall knowingly and willfully keep or cause to be kept any list, record, or registry of privately owned firearms or any list, record, or registry of the owners of those firearms."

The rule was added in 2004 when former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush signed HB 155 into law.

Then-Rep. Lindsay Harrington, R-Punta Gorda, sponsored the bill because of concerns from the National Rifle Association, according to a July 2004 St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times) article. The story said Harrington was troubled when he heard that law enforcement agencies were collecting data on gun transactions at pawn shops, saying "I don't think we, in America, want that type of thing."

The law echoes this concern. It says such a registry could "become an instrument for profiling, harassing, or abusing law-abiding citizens based on their choice to own a firearm." The statute also says if a registry fell into the wrong hands it could be a "shopping list" for criminals.

The rollout of the law, however, was a bit shaky the summer after it passed. Spokesmen for law enforcement agencies in Tampa Bay told the Times they had many questions about the broad ban on any "list, record or registry," and said they may need to hire additional workers to go through various paper and electronic records for deletion. The law required agencies to delete electronic data of pawnshop sales within 60 days, which could also make searches for gun information more onerous.

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"It's a mess," Sherman Smith, the St. Petersburg Police Department's legal adviser, told the Times. "This has really got me flummoxed."

There are exceptions to the gun records ban. Records can be kept on firearms used in a crime or people who have been convicted of crimes. Aaron Keller, a Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services spokesperson, wrote in an email these records would likely be kept by local law enforcement.

Even in cases where firearm records are kept by dealers, those records are prohibited from being compiled into any list by any state employee or private person, according to the statute.

So how does Florida’s ban on private firearm records compare to the rest of the country?

A Thurston spokeswoman said his information came from the Giffords Law Center.

The center, which supports gun restrictions, says seven states, including Florida, prohibit any registry of private firearms.

The seven states are Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Vermont. Pennsylvania prohibits registries of long guns.

Only one state, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia require registration of all firearms.

Our ruling

Thurston said, "Florida is one of only 10 states that totally prohibit a registry."

Florida law does explicitly say a registry of firearm purchases cannot be maintained. Thurston was close but not precise about the number of other states that prohibit registries. It’s seven, not 10.

We rate this statement Mostly True.

Our Sources

2017 Florida Statutes and Constitution, "Chapter 790, Weapons and Firearms," accessed Feb. 27

Email with Jessica Cary, Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokeswoman, Feb. 28

Email with Aaron Keller, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services spokesman, March. 1

Phone call with Kirstie Clinton, legislative aide for Senator Perry Thurston, March 5

Giffords Law Center, "Registration," accessed Feb. 27

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Does Florida prohibit a gun registry? By law, yes

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