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How Florida's Vague Mental Health Law Confiscates Guns from Innocent People

By: Robert Davis

Florida has traditionally been a gun-friendly state. But recent measures that allow for the confiscation of weapons under the guise of “public safety” undermine the personal liberties of law-abiding gun owners and create a slippery slope to confiscating weapons as a whole.

“The state and legislature responded to their failures in Parkland by doing the opposite of what the situation demanded,” Eric Friday, general counsel for Florida Carry, told Gunpowder Magazine.

In March, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the state’s first gun control measures in 22 years after nearly a month of public outcry following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The measures increased the legal age to purchase a weapon to 21, allowed teachers with prior or current law enforcement and military training to carry weapons on campus, and gave law enforcement greater liberties to confiscate weapons from those diagnosed with mental illness.

Bipartisan Support
Brenden Boudreau, Director of Field Operations at the National Association for Gun Rights, says red flag confiscation laws are the gun control law du jour because they make politicians from both sides of the aisle because of their political optics.

“Red flag gun confiscation orders became so popular because initially they appeared to have bipartisan support,” Boudreau told GPM. “Supporters of these laws give false allusions that this is effective way to remove guns from the hands of dangerous people, while also respecting Constitutional rights. This is usually a way that many moderate Republicans end up supporting gun control, when it is billed as a reasonable solution that doesn’t violate the Constitution.

“But once folks started taking a closer look at these laws, it became evident that there are very few protections of Constitutional rights,” Boudreau added. “In fact, they allow for the stripping of gun rights without due process. As we’ve seen with the recent expansion of these laws in California, the end goal is to have the ability to confiscate firearms with as little evidence as possible, with no hope of having rights restored.”

200 Firearms Seized
Fox News reported in late July that since the law went into effect, more than 450 people in Florida have been ordered to give up their guns, and approximately 200 firearms and 30,000 rounds of ammunition have been seized.

“[These laws are] creating a situation where it is more acceptable to deprive someone of their rights than to accept criticism,” Friday told GPM.

According to a statute passed this year, individuals who “pose a significant danger of causing personal injury to himself or herself or others by having a firearm or any ammunition in his or her custody or control,” are at risk of having their weapons confiscated.

But this law, along with Florida’s Baker Act—which allows for involuntary institutionalization of individuals deemed to pose a threat to public safety—runs in contrast to mainstream psychiatry which has found no correlative connection between stable mental illness itself and violence.

“Most patients with stable mental illness do not present an increased risk of violence,” one study conducted by psychiatrists at Wright State University states.
The study also asserts that studies purporting to correlate violence and mental illness cannot “reliably determine that the mental illness is a preexisting factor that is directly responsible for the examined criminal behaviors.”

‘Mental Health’ Too Vague
Boudreau warns the “mental health” caveat is too vague to be used effectively and can and is easily abused.

“‘Mental health’ is a catch-all phrase that is completely dependent on the person, or institution, defining it,” Boudreau said. “There are statistics that show a majority of Americans will suffer from some form of ‘mental health’ issue in their lifetime, but that can range from stress to caffeine addiction, to the more serious. Having such a broad definition gives anti-gun politicians the ability to pick and choose at will whose rights they wish to deny. Allowing politicians to define and decide what categories of people can have gun rights is a gun grabber’s dream scenario.

“Studies have shown that people with mental health issues are much more likely to be the victims of crime than they are to be the committers of crime, so ultimately the goal of taking guns out the hands of ‘dangerous’ people doesn’t actually accomplish the goal that is set out with these laws,” Boudreau said. “Instead, denying people of their rights stigmatizes the condition, which means fewer people will actually seek the treatment they need.”

Robert Davis is a general assignment reporter for Gunpowder Magazine. Contact him with comments or tips at RobertDavis0414@gmail.com.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Gunpowder Magazine.