See our Background Checks policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.
Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)
Florida is a point of contact state for the NICS. As a result, firearms dealers in Florida must initiate the background check required by federal law by contacting the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). More specifically, Florida law prohibits a licensed dealer from selling or delivering a firearm from his or her inventory at his or her licensed premises to anyone except a licensed dealer, importer, or manufacturer, without:
- Obtaining a completed form from the buyer or transferee, and inspecting proper photographic identification;
- Calling the FDLE and requesting a check of “the information as reported and reflected in the Florida Crime Information Center and National Crime Information Center systems as of the date of the request;” and
- Receiving a unique approval number from FDLE and recording that number and the date on the form.
Upon receiving a request for a background check, the FDLE is required to review any available records to determine if the buyer or transferee is prohibited from purchasing a firearm because he or she has been:
- Convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence; or
- “Adjudicated mentally defective” or “committed to a mental institution” by a court.
Florida law provides definitions of the terms “adjudicated mentally defective” and “committed to a mental institution.” Most individuals in these categories are prohibited by federal law from possessing or purchasing firearms. Persons involuntarily committed for outpatient treatment are included within the definition of “committed to a mental institution.”
In 2013, Florida enacted a law that includes a person taken into custody involuntarily for a mental health evaluation and subsequently voluntarily admitted to a mental institution for outpatient or inpatient treatment in the definition of “committed to a mental institution” if: (1) an examining physician has determined that the person poses an imminent danger to himself, herself, or others and has certified that he or she would have filed a petition for involuntary commitment if the person had not agreed to voluntary treatment; (2) the person has been given notice and an opportunity to contest this certification; and (3) a court has reviewed this certification and ordered the person’s record to be submitted.
For information about the restoration of firearm eligibility for persons previously adjudicated mentally defective or committed to a mental institution, please see the Florida Mental Health Reporting section.
In addition, the FDLE must review available records to determine if the buyer or transferee has had adjudication of guilt withheld or imposition of sentence suspended on any felony or misdemeanor crime of domestic violence unless three years have elapsed since probation or any other conditions set by the court have been fulfilled or expunction has occurred. If any of these disqualifying conditions exist, the FDLE must inform the dealer that the buyer or transferee is prohibited from purchasing a firearm and must provide the licensee a nonapproval number.
The FDLE must also review available records and issue a conditional nonapproval number if the buyer or transferee:
- Has been indicted or has had an information filed against her or him for a felony;
- Is subject to a domestic violence protective order, or an injunction against repeat violence; or
- Has been arrested for one of 22 enumerated “dangerous crime[s]” or for criminal anarchy, extortion, certain explosives violations, certain controlled substances violations, resisting an officer with violence, certain weapons and firearms violations, treason, assisting self-murder, sabotage, stalking or aggravated stalking.
The FDLE then has 24 “working hours” (3 business days) in which to determine the disposition of the indictment, information, or arrest and inform the dealer as to whether the potential buyer is prohibited from receiving or possessing a firearm. Florida law requires the clerk of court to respond to an FDLE request for data on the disposition of the indictment, information, or arrest as soon as possible, but in no event later than 8 working hours. FDLE must continue its attempts to obtain the disposition information and may retain a record of all approval numbers granted without sufficient disposition information. If FDLE later obtains disposition information indicating that the person is prohibited from possessing a firearm, FDLE must revoke the conditional approval number and notify law enforcement. During the time that disposition of the indictment, information, or arrest is pending, the conditional nonapproval number remains in effect.
Neither federal nor Florida law requires private sellers (sellers who are not licensed dealers) to initiate a background check when transferring a firearm.
See our Private Sales policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.
In addition, Florida specifically exempts concealed weapons license holders from the state’s background check requirement. However, Florida concealed weapons license holders are not exempt from the federal background check requirement.