It is very clear that Florida Statutes prohibit any state agency, department or bureaucrat from creating a list of gun owners, and that includes the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
Specifically, Section 790.335, Florida Statutes, provides:
“A list, record, or registry of legally owned firearms or law-abiding firearm owners is not a law enforcement tool and can become an instrument for profiling, harassing, or abusing law-abiding citizens based on their choice to own a firearm and exercise their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed under the United States Constitution. Further, such a list, record, or registry has the potential to fall into the wrong hands and become a shopping list for thieves.”
Anyone who creates a “gun registry” is guilty of a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. The agency involved can be subject to fine of up to $5 million, and any official involved must pay for their own defense. The state attorney’s office in the jurisdiction where the offense occurred is tasked by statute to prosecute violators.
But that didn’t stop the FWC from creating and maintaining its own version of a gun registry.
At gun ranges managed by FWC, a waiver form has been in use. This waiver was considered by some to be just such a gun registry. So much so that FWC’s executive director, Nick Wiley, decided that the agency will stop requiring the form.
The waivers, which range patrons had to complete to be allowed access to any of FWC’s public shooting ranges, asked for the patrons’ names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, driver’s license numbers and primary interests: pistol, rifle, shotgun or archery.
By signing the waiver form, patrons agreed that neither they nor their heirs would sue FWC or their employees and volunteers “for any reason, including FWC’s negligence.”
According to U. S. Law Shield Independent Program Attorney David Katz, “The waiver form has the potential of violating state statutes regarding the unlawful creation of a gun registry.”
Katz went on to say, “These waiver forms are public record. Someone could file a public records request and get copies of completed waivers that include all the personal information required of the waiver.”
And it is not a small problem. Katz’s partner and U.S. Law Shield Independent Program Attorney James Phillips added that “there were almost thirteen thousand waivers at just one of the ranges managed by FWC according to Hollie Kimsey, FWC’s records management liaison officer.”
The problem is so serious that Wiley ordered the cessation of using the waiver form on May 9, 2016.
“We looked at it and determined we can scale back the waiver that required all the information about home address, email — we don’t need that,” Wiley said. “We have a form already that we could use, and should be using, that only requires someone to print and sign their name. That’s all the information we need.”
Wiley said minors will still be required to provide more information, but added that “their info is shielded from public records.”
Katz added “It was the right decision. I’m glad the commission fixed the problem immediately.”
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