The various ways people can access guns without a background check

Private sales, willing firearms completely legal

ORLANDO, Fla. – Three weeks after the mass shooting in Parkland, the governor signed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act into law.

The law made sweeping changes to the way the state and schools would address gun violence. 
It banned bump stocks, raised the age to buy a gun to 21 and created restrictions for those deemed mentally ill and dangerous.

But it does little to prevent people's access to guns in this state.

Even though there are background checks and mandatory waiting periods when you buy a gun in a store or at a show, there is no gun registry in the state of Florida. So there is nothing that can prevent the private sale of a gun between two people, or giving the gun as a gift, or stealing one or buying one on the black market.

News 6 went to Volusia Top Gun to talk with gun owners, who all agree there is little that can be done to keep guns out of the hands of people who are determined to get one.

"I own about three handguns, a rifle and a couple of shotguns," said Volusia County resident Alexander Gonzalez.

Gonzalez is a military veteran who served 13 years as a combat medic. He is from Puerto Rico and says the gun laws there are very restrictive to regular citizens.

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"It's impossible for them to get a gun, because the government doesn't allow it," Gonzalez said. "On the other hand, criminals have thousands of guns."

And while Gonzalez says he's undergone a background check for every one of his weapons, he plans on one day passing them down to his children.

"I have a son, and one day I want to hand down my firearms to my son," Gonzalez said.

Inheriting a gun is just one of the many ways a person can get their hands on a gun legally.

You can also buy or get one from a friend, a neighbor, or online at sites such as Facebook or Craigslist.
And because you don't need a permit or a license to buy a gun in Florida, there's no way to track what guns you own.

"The guns just get handed down and there's not really a paper trail on them," said Paul Jabaly, a gun owner and store manager at Volusia Top Gun. “It's very easy to transfer firearms from one person to another, even legally, in the state of Florida.”

News 6 saw a gun sale take place in the parking lot of Volusia Top Gun, and it was perfectly legal.

But what if that person is deemed dangerous or mentally ill?

Orlando attorney Kendra Parris says there is a state database, known as the MECOM database, but it only restricts people who have been identified as being mentally incompetent from purchasing or possessing firearms.

[READ: Here are the reasons why Floridians can have their guns taken away]

MECOM, the Mental Competency Database, was established in 2007, and is an automated database used to receive and store information from the Clerks of Court to keep track of individuals adjudicated to be mentally defective or committed to a mental institution by a court order or by a judge's finding of incapacity for the purpose of determining if the person can be sold a gun or have one transferred to him or her. The Clerk of Court is responsible for submitting the record to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement within 24 hours. 

"So, for most people who admit themselves voluntarily, no, they are not going to encounter a firearms restriction because they're not dangerous to themselves or others. They're just trying to get some help," Parris said.

Parris, who is a member of the Liberal Gun Club, said that while more should be done to address mental health, her research shows most gun deaths in Florida and nationwide are either suicides or gang related. 

"But for those individuals who are a danger to themselves or others, the facility has a mechanism to go ahead and report those individuals to the Department of Agriculture and to prohibit their purchase and possession of firearms," Parris said.

And that brings us to the most common way people get guns, which is stealing them, or buying them on the black market.

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Last year alone, Central Florida prosecutors saw hundreds of cases of convicted felons and violent career criminals caught carrying guns.

In Orange County, there were 223 cases of convicted felons caught possessing firearms, 56 cases of a convicted delinquent possessing a firearm, 59 cases of a convicted felon possessing ammunition and 32 cases of a convicted felon carrying a concealed weapon.

In Osceola County, there were 36 cases of a convicted felon possessing firearms, six cases of a convicted felon possessing a firearm, 16 cases of a convicted felon possessing ammunition and two cases of a convicted felon carrying a concealed weapon.

Both counties had one case each of a person with a domestic violence injunction against them getting caught with possessing a firearm or ammunition. The data was provided by the State Attorney's Office for District 9.

The Office of the State Attorney for the 18th Judicial Circuit, which covers both Brevard and Seminole counties, reported there were a total of 164 cases combined for convicted felons and delinquents charged with gun possession.

[READ: These are the people who can't own guns in Florida]

According to the District 7 State Attorney's Office, which covers Flagler, Putnam and Volusia counties, there were a total of 370 cases for all of 2018 that were charged under Florida Statute 790.22, which includes possession of firearms, ammunition or electric weapons or devices by convicted felons. 

For District 5, which covers Lake, Marion and Sumter counties, a total of 195 cases of possession of firearm by a felon and possession of a firearm by a delinquent were filed in 2018.

"Criminals don't obey gun laws," said Rafael Zaldivar, whose son Alexander was shot and killed by a felon who had access to a gun. 

Zaldivar said his son was shot and killed by Bessman Okafor, and said he was trying to prevent his son from testifying against Okafor at trial

"You know, he shot my son twice,” Zaldivar said. “He went in there with a firearm. Where did he get that firearm?"

Okafor was convicted for the 2015 murder. A jury recommended the death penalty by a vote of 11-1, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the jury must be unanimous in order for a judge to impose the death penalty. Okafor is currently awaiting another trial.

But despite that, Zaldivar feels families should have the right to bear arms and protect themselves, even members who are underage.

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"What about that single mother that can't protect herself until she is 21, and somebody kicks in the door?" Zaldivar asked. " What is she going to do? I don't think that's fair to her."

Zaldivar also said his past upbringing is one of the biggest reasons he is a firm believer in the Second Amendment.

"You know, I come from a country where they took our firearms away. It didn't turn out too well for us in Cuba. It did not turn out too well in Venezuela," Zaldivar said. "They need criminal control, not gun control.