In an editorial, the Tampa Bay Times notes that a mentally ill young man who should never have had a gun allegedly obtained a 12-gauge shotgun with the help of a friend and now is accused of a double murder. Even more frustrating, Pinellas County officials don't believe they can charge the friend who bought the gun because of vague state laws. "Tightening up this lax gun control — even in NRA-friendly Tallahassee — shouldn't be controversial," the paper says. "Out of tragedy, Florida's Legislature should embrace some common sense gun regulation."
Homicide suspect Benjamin Bishop, 18, of Oldsmar has been charged with first-degree murder in the Oct. 28 slayings of his mother, Imari Shibata, and her boyfriend, Kelley Allen. The irony is that Bishop, at least initially, was thwarted in his attempt to buy a weapon, but not necessarily because of state law. Bishop was on juvenile felony probation — a crime committed before he was 18 — for taking a knife to school. After Bishop acknowledged to a gun shop owner that he was on felony probation, the owner refused to sell him a gun. So Bishop asked an unidentified friend, also 18, to buy the gun for him. The Times says, "The Legislature should make it clear that weapons bans for felony probationers apply to both juvenile offenders and adults. And straw buyers should be put on notice that they will be held to account for those for whom they buy guns. Such measures might have kept a gun out of the hands of a mentally unstable young man."