Local governments limited on stopping gun store burglaries

- For gun store owner Al Delatorre, a lock on the door and an alarm weren't enough.

Burglars hit his Lakeland gun store for the second time in a little more than a month.

This time they got away with nearly 50 guns.

"Those handguns are destined for the black market and bad guys are going to have those guns and they're going to use them," said Polk County sheriff's spokesman Scott Wilder.

Government figures show gun shop burglaries are up nearly 30 percent nationwide.

One of the most dramatic happened last November at a Tampa gun shop.

Surveillance video showed thieves breaking in by driving a truck through the front of the store.

A swarm of thieves wearing masks made off with more than 40 guns in just over 60 seconds.

But, local officials don't have the power to require gun stores to be more secure.

They can only ask.

"Gun store owners have a moral and ethical obligation to secure their inventory," said Wilder.

But, they don't have a legal obligation.

Florida law says the legislature has the sole right to regulate guns and gun stores.

State law doesn't have security requirements, but it prohibits counties and cities from passing their own ordinances.

"The effect of that law would mean even local cities experiencing the rise in thefts from gun dealers are powerless to take action on their own, so they have to wait for the state to decide to pass a law," said Hannah Shearer, of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Florida's Republican legislature is not likely to pass anything that could be interpreted as gun control, but if the burglary trend continues, they may have to do something.

Republican state representative Neil Combee of Polk County says tough, mandatory sentences for people convicted of stealing guns could be part of the answer, but no legislation has been introduced.
 

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