Good Question: Was the purchase of a shotgun by Sol Pais in Colorado legal?By Alan Gionet

DENVER (CBS4) – Gun laws are complicated. That’s one thing for certain in the effort to figure out whether the young woman who caused fear and school cancellations Wednesday before her apparent suicide by gun, legally bought that weapon in Colorado.

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Investigators say Sol Pais flew into Colorado Monday and ended up at a gun store in unincorporated Jefferson County where she purchased a shotgun. Wednesday afternoon, the owner of the Colorado Gun Broker store, said he believed she had purchased the weapon legally. Josh Rayburn wrote, “She did go through the full background check and was given a clearance by both NCIC and CBI … We had no reason to suspect she was a threat to either herself or anyone else.”

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That background check is required for the purchase of a weapon under Colorado law. It’s called Instacheck and it usually takes only minutes. In Colorado, it is legal to buy a long gun, like the shotgun purchased by Pais, at the age of 18. There is also no requirement of residency to purchase a long gun in Colorado. That is different from a handgun. You have to be 21 to purchase a handgun — and for a handgun purchase, you have to show an ID showing Colorado residency. There is also no waiting period for weapons purchases in Colorado, what in some states in the past has been termed a cooling off period.

Then there’s federal law. Federal law stipulates that an out-of-state resident can only purchase a firearm if that purchase complies with laws in the state in which they are buying and the state on their ID. Pais was from the Miami area. That would mean she would have to meet requirements for purchasing a weapon under both Colorado and Florida law. Florida prohibits most sales of long guns to people under the age of 21 and Florida has a three-day waiting period – a law passed last year, after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

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That seems to indicate that the sale should have been stopped. But, that may not be the case.

Deeper within Florida’s laws is language that federal firearms experts are looking at that may have meant the sale was not prohibited.
In Florida law 790.065 that covers weapons sales, it says:

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“This subsection does not apply to the purchase, trade, or transfer of a rifle or shotgun by a resident of this state when the resident makes such purchase, trade, or transfer from a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer in another state.”

The key phrase is, “in another state.”

Last year, Florida passed new tougher laws in the wake of the shooting in Parkland including 790.0655. In that language when defining the gun seller covered by the new law, it says:

“‘Retailer’ means and includes a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer engaged in the business of making firearm sales at retail or for distribution, or use, or consumption, or storage to be used or consumed in this state.”

Again, there’s a similar phrase, “in this state.” It appears Florida’s law is designed to apply only in-state and that is what agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are studying. Mary Markos of the ATF in Colorado gave me this formal statement when we spoke about it: “At this time we believe Pais legally purchased the firearm she had in her possession.”

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As of this day after the day Pais apparently took her own life near Echo Lake, ending the “credible threat” to Colorado schools, it remains in the view of investigators, a legal sale.

Alan Gionet