Tampa, Fla (NewsRadio WFLA) – Two more mass shootings, barely 13 hours apart on Friday and Saturday, have reignited the deep divides over gun control and how to keep firearms out of the hands of those that may be walking the fine line between threatening an act of violence and actually going through with it.
With an all out ban on assault weapons or modified firearms, like those used in the killing of at least 22 people at an El Paso Walmart and 9 more in a popular entertainment district in Dayton, Ohio, unlikely to be considered, so-called “Red Flag Laws” are being looked at by some states and even President Trump as part of proposed gun control legislation.
So far, 17 states and the District of Columbia have passed these laws that allow for law enforcement officers or agencies to ask judges to remove firearms from the possession of certain people after receiving evidence and information that they may be a serious risk to harming themselves or others in the near future.
Florida’s version was passed in 2018 as part of the comprehensive school safety bill following the deadly mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The new law created the “Risk Protection Orders” court procedure under the state’s firearms laws which require judges to hold hearings once a petition is filed.
The judge then considers evidence from law enforcement officers about the nature of the threat of violence, identify how many firearms and what types are owned by the individual and also make a determination based on certain criteria, whether the person requires court-ordered mental health treatment or even involuntary commitment, similar to the state’s Baker Act provisions.
For a better understanding of how the law works, here is a step-by-step guide to the process.
WHO QUALIFIES TO BE THE SUBJECT OF A “RISK PROTECTION ORDER?”
The person, known as the “Respondent” for purposes of the court petition and hearing, poses a significant danger of personal injury to themselves or others
The person has the potential for using firearms already in their possession
The person has recently bought or received a firearm or any ammunition
WHAT INFORMATION AND EVIDENCE IS REQUIRED FROM LAW ENFORCEMENT?
An affidavit, under oath, attached to the petition for the “Risk Protection Order”
Specific statements, actions or facts that give rise to a “reasonable fear” of “significant dangerous acts by the “Respondent”
Identify the number, types and locations of all firearms law enforcement believes to be in the “Respondent’s” current ownership, possession or custody
Identify whether there are other protection orders against the “Respondent” (Domestic Violence Injunctions, Injunction against Stalking, existing Risk Protection Orders, for example)
Evidence that law enforcement made a good faith effort to notify the family or household member(s) of the “Respondent” or ny known person who be at risk of violence
Evidence that in notifying the family, household member(s) or others that are at risk, law enforcement also provided information for referrals to appropriate mental health, domestic violence or counseling resources
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE FACTORS THE JUDGE WILL CONSIDER AT THE HEARING?
The judge must set a hearing within 14 days of receiving the petition from law enforcement.
In the meantime, law enforcement can ask the judge to issue a temporary Risk Protection Order without holding a hearing if there is a significant danger of causing injury to the “Respondent” or others before a court hearing can be held
Whether the “Respondent” has made a recent act or threat of violence against themselves or others, regardless of the type of weapon used or threatened
An act or threat of violence has occurred in the past 12 months
Evidence of severe mental illness or recurring mental health issues
A domestic violence conviction regardless of whether the defendant was adjudicated (formally convicted) after trial, by guilty plea or plea of no contest as part of plea agreement
Additional evidence of drug or alcohol abuse
Relevant information or testimony from family members or witnesses under oath
Attorneys are not required to represent either side.
POSSIBLE CONDITIONS OF THE “RISK PROTECTION ORDER”
Immediate surrender of firearms identified as being in the “Respondent’s” possession
Surrender concealed weapons or other firearm licenses or permits
Order the “Respondent” not to possess any firearms while the order is in effect
Immediate mental health evaluation
Immediate drug and/or alcohol evaluation
Obtain one or both evaluations within a certain number of days of the order being issued
The order is active for a certain period of days set by the judge
Notice is sent to FDLE and the order is entered into the national crime data base (NCIS)
The order cannot be cancelled or changed except by a separate order from the same judge