The Army Navy Guns shop’s new location is at 2735 Tamiami Trail in Port Charlotte.

A Charlotte County man is taking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to court in a class action lawsuit regarding background checks for firearm purchases.

Chris Pretzer attempted to purchase a gun at Army Navy Guns in Port Charlotte in March.

Rather than the purchase getting approved or denied by the FDLE in the three-day waiting period required by Florida statute, he was waiting in limbo for 62 days.

According to the lawsuit filed by attorney Eric Friday, of Florida Carry in Jacksonville, he’s not the only one. Friday said he received an email Thursday morning from someone who has been waiting for a decision from FDLE since September.

He estimates hundreds or thousands people may have had their “right to purchase a firearm in order to exercise their fundamental enumerated rights to keep and bear arms... denied through indefinite delay of their rights for a period exceeding three days due to action or inaction by FDLE.”

Friday said FDLE used to issue three responses to a background check. For those that came back clear, the gun transaction was approved. If a background check showed the person was a felon or otherwise prohibited person, FDLE issued a non-approval.

For ones that were unclear, FDLE would issue a conditional non-approval.

“If there’s an arrest on a felony but no evidence of a conviction, at that point you issue a conditional non-approval,” Friday said. “Then you have 24 working hours... to do the research and figure out, was this person convicted, or were they arrested and convicted on a lesser charge or arrested and there wasn’t sufficient evidence — what happened?”

After 24 hours, if FDLE had no proof the person was prohibited from owning a firearm, they would change the conditional non-approval to a conditional approval, meaning the person could get their gun. If FDLE later found out they shouldn’t have been approved, local law enforcement would be contacted to collect the firearm.

Friday said in March 2018, after the passing of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, FDLE began operating differently. They ceased issuing conditional non-approvals or approvals, instead giving a “Decision Pending” response, providing no timeline of how long it would take to make a decision.

According to Friday, there is nothing in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act or any other state law authorizing FDLE to do so.

“The legislature did not authorize them to use ‘decision pending,’” Friday said. “They don’t get to make up their own minds and issue whatever they want to issue without legislative authority.”

Friday said two days after he filed the suit, FDLE suddenly approved Pretzer’s license and that of another individual named as a plaintiff in the suit. The last named plaintiff had his gun purchase denied.

“FDLE can apparently perform miracles when properly motivated,” Friday said. “I filed the lawsuit on Monday. By Wednesday, two of them had been approved and one had been denied. All three of them finally had resolutions Wednesday.”

Friday compared FDLE’s actions to the government denying someone’s right to vote based on an unfinished background check.

“Who would go for that?” he said. “People would say guns are different. There is no right to vote in the constitution. There is a right to buy a firearm in the constitution.”

FDLE declined to comment on the pending litigation.

On its website, the department states 96 percent of all firearm transactions are approved and just under 2 percent are non-approved. The remaining 2 percent require additional information before a final decision can be made.

“The pending transaction is immediately forwarded to the Firearm Eligibility Bureau, Eligibility Research Unit (ERU) and is assigned to a team of analysts who will conduct research until sufficient information has been received to make a final decision,” the website states. “Every effort is made to conclude the research and make a final decision before the 3-day waiting period ends. Some transactions may take longer than 3 business days. Research for federal, military, out of state, and pre-1990 records may take longer.”

The most common reason for a delay is a criminal history with missing court disposition information, according to FDLE.


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