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Democratic lawmakers file bill restricting guns for ‘at-risk’ individuals

Following the worst mass shooting in U.S. history earlier this week in Las Vegas, two Florida lawmakers announced legislation designed to temporarily prevent access to firearms for individuals at a high risk of harming themselves or others.

The bill (HB 231), filed Thursday by Jacksonville Sen. Audrey Gibson and Lantana Rep. Lori Berman – both Democrats – would allow family, household members and law enforcement to obtain a court order with “demonstrated evidence” the person poses a significant danger to themselves or others, including danger as a result of a mental health crisis or violent behavior.

Both legislators say the intent is to reduce gun deaths and injuries by allowing an order to temporarily restrict a person’s access to firearms, while simultaneously respecting constitutional rights. Court orders are intended to be limited to situations where a person possessing a firearm poses a significant danger of harming themselves or others.

The measure includes standards and safeguards to protect the rights of respondents and due process of law.

“It is critical to address senseless gun deaths that now seem to be more the norm than a rarity,” Gibson said. “This bill is designed to remove from harm’s way individuals who are at high risk of harming themselves or others through an act of gun violence.

“A temporary, evidenced-based court order to remove a firearm from the home can be extremely helpful in curbing dangerous crisis behavior,” she added.

“In light of Sunday night’s tragedy in Las Vegas, it is more important than ever that we address how to limit gun violence,” Berman added. “This bill provides a mechanism for family or household members and law enforcement to stop bad actors before [a] tragedy happens.”

The legislation also “gives family members a pathway for removing firearms from individuals in the throes of a dangerous mental health crisis, including suicidal ideations.” he said.

A similar bill filed in the 2017 Legislative Session would have required someone applying for a concealed-weapons permit to undergo a mental health evaluation by a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist and be deemed “competent and of sound mind.”

That proposal failed, as did almost every other gun-related bill that year.

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The bill is the second gun-control issue to be introduced by Democrats in the Legislature in the past two days. On Wednesday, state Sen. Linda Stewart and Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, both of Orlando, unveiled proposed legislation to ban the sale of assault-style weapons and large-capacity magazines.

Written By

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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