JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida Democratic lawmakers are looking to expand the state’s “red flag” law after the devastating mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas in which 21 people including 19 children were killed.
The “red flag” law allows the court to confiscate firearms from people who show that they’re at risk of harming themselves or others. The law also restricts gun purchases for up to a year.
Florida’s risk protection order policy is a court-mandate to seize guns and block the sale of firearms for up to a year from someone who is showing signs of violent intent.
Lawmakers said the red flag law has been used in Florida more than 5,000 times since its adoption in 2018, but it only allows law enforcement officers to go to the court for a risk protection order.
Some Democratic lawmakers want to expand the risk protection order policy law to allow family and friends to petition the court directly.
“To curb gun violence in Florida we need to expand red flag laws so that people who are a danger to themselves or others will have to surrender their firearms to law enforcement,” Rep. Carlos Smith Republican efforts to repeal red flag[s] are NOT going anywhere.”
Attorney Dan Bean said any further action to expand the red flag law in Florida could risk encroaching on individual rights.
“It’s just it’s a such a delicate situation because we value the rights and liberty and independence of people, and at the same time, we also have an obligation to keep others safe,” Bean said.
Red flag laws have existed since 1999. The first was enacted in the wake of the mass shooting at a lottery office in Connecticut. Four other states followed suit in the years that followed but after the high school shooting in Parkland, that number increased to a total of 19 states implementing similar red flag laws, including in Republican-led legislatures like Indiana and Florida.
Bean said a court that rules on a risk protection order will consider the individual’s behavior, previous legal violations, mental health capacity, previous threatening statements out-of-state records and other factors.
Opponents to red flag laws claim the orders violate 4th Amendment protections against government search and seizure and have the potential to violate the 2nd amendment.
When a risk protection order is filed, the person it’s filed against does have the opportunity to plead their case in a court hearing, but since it’s not a criminal case, that person would not be assigned a lawyer by the court if they can’t afford one. For this reason, some opponents of the red flag laws argue that they discriminate against poor citizens.
Supporters said it’s a means of keeping deadly weapons out of the hands of violent individuals.
Gov. DeSantis has not indicated support for an expansion of the state’s red flag law, but he has promised to enact a permitless carry measure in Florida before he leaves office.