As we mentioned in our previous article, 18-year-old Sol Pais traveled to Colorado from Florida on Monday. The woman was reportedly obsessed with the Columbine massacre. She had made threats ahead of the shooting’s 20th anniversary this Saturday. She purchased a shotgun and ammunition when she arrived in Colorado.
Following an extensive manhunt by local and federal law enforcement Pais committed suicide.
The question is, did the FFL that sold her the shotgun, Colorado Gun Broker, violate Federal Law?
(b) It shall be unlawful for any licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, licensed dealer, or licensed collector to sell or deliver—
(3) any firearm to any person who the licensee knows or has reasonable cause to believe does not reside in (or if the person is a corporation or other business entity, does not maintain a place of business in) the State in which the licensee’s place of business is located, except that this paragraph (A) shall not apply to the sale or delivery of any rifle or shotgun to a resident of a State other than a State in which the licensee’s place of business is located if the transferee meets in person with the transferor to accomplish the transfer, and the sale, delivery, and receipt fully comply with the legal conditions of sale in both such States (and any licensed manufacturer, importer or dealer shall be presumed, for purposes of this subparagraph, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, to have had actual knowledge of the State laws and published ordinances of both States), and (B) shall not apply to the loan or rental of a firearm to any person for temporary use for lawful sporting purposes;
Under federal law, it’s legal to sell a gun to an out-of-state resident so long as the purchase would be legal in their home state. So an 18-year-old from Missouri purchasing a long gun from a Colorado FFL is perfectly legal. But Florida law is different now.
Remember that after Parkland, part of the gun control package pushed through the GOP-lead legislature and signed into law by Rick Scott outlawed the purchase of long guns by anyone under the age of 21.
(13) A person younger than 21 years of age may not purchase a firearm. The sale or transfer of a firearm to a person younger than 21 years of age may not be made or facilitated by a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer. A person who violates this subsection commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. The prohibitions of this subsection do not apply to the purchase of a rifle or shotgun by a law enforcement officer or correctional officer, as those terms are defined in s. 943.10(1), (2), (3), (6), (7), (8), or (9), or a servicemember as defined in s. 250.01.
As an 18-year-old, Sol Pais could not legally purchase a long gun in Florida. So under US Code §922, in conjunction with FL Statute §790.065, it appears that the FFL violated federal law.
I know this because until 2010, Florida had a law in place that barred Floridians from purchasing long guns in states other than Georgia and Alabama.
A resident of this state may purchase a rifle or shotgun in any state contiguous to this state if he or she conforms to applicable laws and regulations of the United States, of the state where the purchase is made, and of this state.
This law was enforced on a corporate level by a number of national retailers like Walmart and Bass Pro Shops. I experienced this when I’d travel to Oklahoma to hunt. I remember seeing signs in Walmart’s firearms department listing the states whose residents were prohibited from purchasing guns. Florida was on that list.
In 2011, the law was repealed. Floridians could buy long guns in any other state and Florida was removed from those signs.
In my conversations with BATFE at the time, they explained that if any dealer outside of Georgia or Alabama sold to a Floridian at the time, they’d be in violation of federal law.
The same now applies goes to any other state law under Florida’s age restriction.
Expect this to be made an issue due in the current political environment. Traditionally, BATFE doesn’t crack down on these situations, but since this was such a high profile case and resulted in a suicide by an 18-year-old, this will be brought up.
Under federal law, culpable negligence isn’t a defense. It’s incumbent on Federal Firearms License holders to make sure they’re up-to-date on the laws of all of the other 49 states.
Update by Author:
It is not the responsibility of FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System to see if any applicable laws are being violated. NICS simply checks the National Crime Information Center to see if the buyer is not prohibited from possessing a firearm (have they been judge mentally deficient, is the person a convicted felon, or convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, received a dishonorable discharge, etc. . .)
NICS does not check anything else. Nor does the State of Colorado’s Bureau of Investigations Firearms InstaCheck or even Florida’s Department of Law Enforcement Firearm Purchase Program check to determine if applicable laws have been violated.
The determination to know if applicable laws are being violated rests on the dealer. Additionally, if the BATFE decide to censure (fine) and not press criminal charges against the dealer for the failure to abide by US Code §922, then the dealer is open to civil litigation because they have been stripped of coverage provided by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. Since they did not legally speaking, commit lawful commerce in the sale of the firearm since they violated §922 by not abiding by §790.065.