Lori Berman, Kelly Skidmore to refile red flag bill following Buffalo, Uvalde massacres
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 4/20/22-Sen. Lori Berman, D-Boynton Beach, speaks against the congressional redistricting map the Senate later approved, Wednesday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

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Berman has filed the measure in three prior Sessions. It has yet to receive a single committee hearing in either chamber.

Following last month’s massacres in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, Delray Beach Sen. Lori Berman and Boca Raton Rep. Kelly Skidmore plan to refile a joint measure aimed at strengthening Florida’s so-called “red flag” statutes for the next Legislative Session.

Red flag laws, also known as “risk protection order” (RPO) laws, allow police with court approval to temporarily seize weapons from people deemed at risk of harming themselves or others. State lawmakers more than four years ago defied Florida’s well-earned “Gunshine State” moniker by including an RPO law in the sweeping Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Safety Act, which then-Gov. Rick Scott signed on March 9, 2018.

Since the act went into effect, law enforcement officers and agencies throughout Florida have filed more than 5,800 RPOs, according to a press note from the Florida House Democratic Caucus.

Berman and Skidmore’s bill would enable parents, grandparents, legal guardians, spouses and siblings to also seek an RPO if they fear someone close to them is an imminent shooting risk.

Berman filed her first RPO bill in October 2017, four months before a 19-year-old gunman killed 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland. Reports later arose that the shooter had been violent at home for years but had no criminal record and legally obtained his firearms.

The teenage shooters in Buffalo and Uvalde similarly had no criminal records and bought their guns legally. Both had threatened to harm friends, classmates and family members prior to their rampages, which happened just 10 days apart.

Berman refiled her RPO bill in 2019 and again 2020, when Skidmore carried its House companion.

In all three prior Sessions, the bill has yet to receive a single committee hearing in either chamber.

“Year after year, House and Senate Democrats have fought tirelessly to ensure Floridians are safe from these horrific acts. One of the many ways in which we can work towards this is by temporarily removing firearms from the hands of those who may be in danger to themselves or others,” she said in a statement Wednesday. “This is just one of the many commonsense actions we can take now to make our communities safer. We have no choice but to act now. No more excuses.”

Expanding the scope of Florida’s RPO law will “empower people to take action when they see early warning signs of potentially dangerous behavior,” Skidmore said.

“This lifesaving tool has already proven to be highly effective,” she said. “There are no words left to say, no argument left to make, no opining left to do, no thoughts and prayers left to offer. It is time to act.”

The bottom line, said Kelly Diveto, legislative lead for the Palm Beach County chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, is that allowing close family members to assess and report risky individuals residing in their homes supplies law enforcement with additional tools to safeguard communities from gun violence.

“It comes down to this,” she said. “If a family member sees a warning sign, they can respond to it by asking for an RPO to save the life of the individual and others, and the proposed legislation makes this happen.”

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


3 comments

  • Richard Bruce

    June 1, 2022 at 5:23 pm

    If a person is not stable to own firearms, then they need to be Institutionalized. Cannot just focus on the weapon. There must be a layer of processes before forcibly removing firearms. There is a great danger in denying rights to people without due process. Red Flag Laws will be abused. How will one defend against it?

  • Anonymous

    June 2, 2022 at 7:28 am

    The Republicans in Tallahassee want to pass ” Open Carry ” and if passed governor DeSantis would sign it. Let’s bring the “Wild West” to Florida. If so Lots of luck to law enforcement!

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