Florida lawmakers want to expand the “red flag” gun law that allows for the temporary removal of guns in the possession of people deemed a threat to themselves or others.
At the state level, Sen. Lori Berman wants to extend the law’s petitioning powers to family members, allowing them to go to a judge to ask for a Risk Protection Order.
“These senseless massacres could have an added piece of potential prevention if we simply allow those closest to those with mental illness an opportunity to come forward,” Berman said.
As it stands, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act limits who can petition a judge to have guns removed from “a person who has been adjudicated mentally defective or been committed to a mental institution” to law enforcement officers.
“We are taught, if we see something, say something, yet that very principle is meaningless if the information shared lacks the ability to be enforced,” Berman said.
Berman has refiled Senate Bill 114: Risk Protection Orders, which was brought up during the 2019 session but failed to advance to a committee.
State Rep. Richard Stark is backing similar legislation in the Florida House. He agrees with Berman that “family members are best at recognizing warning signs and too often need to work directly with the courts.”
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio wants the red flag law to become the norm across the nation, calling on the Senate Judiciary Committee to take up the reintroduced Extreme Risk Protection Order and Violence Prevention Act.
“A gun violence restraining order is one of the most effective policies we can put in place to prevent another tragedy like Parkland,” Sen. Rubio said. “We can help keep our schools and communities safe by empowering law enforcement or family members to use the judicial system to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals. This idea has already proven successful in states like Florida, and it is my hope that this bill will get other states to do the same thing.”
Critics of the law argue that Extreme Risk Protection Orders, and the one-year gun ownership restriction the orders come with, infringe on the Second Amendment rights of affected individuals.
“Anti-gun family members, friends, or acquaintances can levy dubious accusations to justify the confiscation of law-abiding gun owners’ guns. They can take these accusations to a court of law, even if the individual in question was not charged or convicted of a crime. In turn, due process rights are turned upside down, as gun owners are presumed to be guilty and must then prove their innocence,” argued Jose Nino, a freelance writer for the Mises Institute. “The duration of ERPOs is unclear – which could end up being weeks, months, or even a year. Gun owners would then be forced to go to court multiple times just to win their Constitutional rights back.”
President Donald Trump expressed support for red flag laws following the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.
U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, who has also called for a ban on high-capacity magazines, urged the president to act.
“President Trump should match his words with action and support our bipartisan plan to promote state-level extreme risk protection orders,” Deutch’s statement read. “We can move quickly to pass this bill and empower more law enforcement agencies with life-saving tools to intervene when people may pose a threat to themselves or others. These policies have already saved lives in states across the country. What are we waiting for?”
Chris began his writing as a hobby while attending Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida. Today he and his wife live in the Orlando area with their three children and dog.