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Legislature 2004

Bills ban gun range lawsuits, gun owner lists

The two bills were pushed by the National Rifle Association and signed by Gov. Jeb Bush on Thursday.

By Associated Press
Published May 14, 2004

TALLAHASSEE - Gun range owners will get immunity from lead cleanup lawsuits under certain conditions and police will be banned from keeping electronic lists of law-abiding gun owners under bills signed Thursday by Gov. Jeb Bush.

The National Rifle Association praised Bush for signing the bills, both of which were pushed by the gun owners' group.

The gun range bill arose out of a Pinellas County lawsuit that sought to force a range to clean up lead that collected on the ground from expended bullets. Environmentalists say if the lead leaches into the groundwater, it can be dangerous.

The measure (SB 1156), which Bush signed in a private ceremony, basically bans such lawsuits, making it a misdemeanor for government officials to bring a claim against a range for the cleanup of old ammunition.

The bill, however, requires state environment regulators to set up a protocol for how gun ranges should prevent lead contamination of their property and nearby land and water. Among the ideas that will be part of the plan is the use of lead-free ammunition.

If ranges follow the plan, they can't be sued. If they don't, they wouldn't be protected from state lawsuits, and neighbors affected by lead entering groundwater could still sue them.

Ranges following the proposed management practices would be expected to work with the state to cover the cost of lead contamination cleanup under the measure, and the law didn't provide any additional funding source for that.

The bill also withdraws any state suits against gun ranges, which specifically applies to the Skyway Gun Club in Pinellas County, which is being sued by the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

The water management district owns land adjacent to the Skyway club and said it was worried about lead pollution in a pond on its property.

Under the other bill (HB 155), police and government agencies could be fined $5-million if they keep electronic lists of people who own firearms.

The NRA pushed that one too, saying some police agencies were compiling databases of law-abiding citizens who owned guns from paper records submitted by pawn shops.

The measure doesn't apply to lists created as part of a criminal investigation. And paper pawn records will continue to be available to investigators.

Originally, the measure was opposed by police, but lawmakers put in exemptions meant to appease them. Records are needed as part of an ongoing investigation, for example, could still be put in a database.

Law restricts release of driver information

Personal information from a driver's license must remain private unless the driver authorizes its release under a bill Gov. Jeb Bush signed into law Thursday.

Previously, the information was public unless the driver acted to block its release.

Under the new law, information such as a driver's name, address and driver's license number will not be made public unless the driver explicitly authorizes it.

"This new law will provide the residents of our state with peace of mind their information is protected and kept out of the hands of those who would abuse it," Bush said.

It also brings Florida into compliance with the Federal Driver Privacy Protection Act. The act requires all personal information contained in motor vehicle and driver license records to be blocked from public release, in part to prevent identity theft.

Motorists' driving records, including convictions, suspensions, and revocations, will continue to be public.

[Last modified May 14, 2004, 01:00:14]

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