JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There was a hearing Thursday morning in Duval County court in the case of a 61-year-old woman whose guns were removed from her home on Jacksonville's Westside over mental health concerns.
Jacksonville police and federal agents were able to seize the guns last month because of a new law that allows law enforcement officers to remove guns from someone with mental health issues. The law aims to protect both gun owners and the people around them.
Police reports show the woman has a history of mental illness and has been held under the Baker Act multiple times, which is why News4Jax has chosen not to name her. But neighbors have voiced concerns for months about her health and safety, as well as their own.
According to neighbors, the woman has fired multiple gunshots inside her home, and a bullet hit a neighbor's home.
Deborah Yasmine, who lives next door, spoke with News4Jax last month after those shots were fired. She said there had been several other concerning incidents, including her home surveillance capturing the woman walking through her yard to her home and leaving a handgun under a chair cushion on her front porch.
Yasmine testified in court Thursday.
"She has just basically kind of terrorized the neighborhood. I mean, we all feel like we're in fear of our life, especially since I had a gun left on my porch," Yasmine said. "And then the shooting incident has really, I mean, that just took it to a whole new level of fear for all of us."
The judge told the city attorneys representing the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office that there was enough evidence to prove the woman is a threat to herself or others and, under the new law, issued a risk protection order.
Attorney Gene Nichols, who is not affiliated with the case, explained the next steps.
"After a risk protection order has been entered by the court, typically the individual who it’s against is either going to relinquish their weapons or they’re not," Nichols said. "If they’re not, then there’s a second stop where the Sheriff’s Office has to petition a judge for a warrant to search for those weapons."
That next hearing is scheduled for Tuesday and city attorneys told News4Jax that they hope it's canceled.
If the meeting is canceled, that would mean the woman agreed to give up any remaining weapons and no additional search warrant was needed.
The new law falls under the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act, which went into effect after the Parkland high school mass shooting.
State Rep. Cord Byrd, who's also a guns rights attorney, told News4Jax by phone on Thursday that the law has good intentions, but worries it can come with violations. He said he hopes and believes it is a law that will eventually be revisited.