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Legality and risks of private gun sales in Florida

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The shooting that took the life of 7-year-old Heidy Villanueva followed what was supposed to be a private gun transaction in the parking lot of an IHOP on Jacksonville's Westside.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The shooting that took the life of 7-year-old Heidy Villanueva followed what was supposed to be a private gun transaction in the parking lot of an IHOP on Jacksonville's Westside.

JSO believes the suspects, Stanley Tyron Harris III, Treconte Montie Phoenix and Abrion Maurice Price, were intending to rob the private gun seller from the get-go. The crossfire led to the death of Villanueva.

The incident highlights the risks of private guns sales as buyers meet up with complete strangers to sell their firearms and weapons accessories.

Former JSO detective Kim Varner says he's wary of such a transaction because of so many unknowns associated with it.

"I wouldn’t sell to just anyone," said Varner. "You can never predict how they are going to go."

The transfer of a gun is legal, as long as the buyer and seller abides by Florida law.

The state does not require a background check for a private sale, but it says you can’t knowingly sell to anyone prohibited by federal law.

You are required to ask for a valid state ID, especially since the minimum age to purchase a firearm is now 21 in Florida.

The gun must have a serial number and can’t be sold with any illegal accessories, like a bump stock or silencer.

Websites like Craigslist and Facebook’s marketplace strictly prohibit the transaction of firearms, but the website “Armslist” is one example that’s increasingly popular online. There are currently about 740 posts on the website from people in Jacksonville selling guns and weapons accessories, about 50% of which are semi-automatic rifles.

There’s also a listing for a “Ghost Gunner” 3D printer that creates gun parts. While the ATF is investigating the new technology, it is legal, although agencies have expressed their concern about how 3D printers pose more safety risks to the public.

Ultimately, there is no agency in Florida that monitors private gun sales.

ATF maintains the initial information from a store or manufacturer.

Experts say to do your research and take extra precautions if you make a private gun transaction.

They also say to make the trade in a public place, like near a JSO substation, and to never go alone to meet someone.

You can also use a bill of sale document to prove you sold the gun in case it's stolen or used in a crime.

You can search for the gun's serial number on the FDLE's Stolen Gun website search.

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