Nearly one year in, the impact of Florida's red flag reforms

Nearly one year in, the impact of Florida’s “red flag”, reforms

Excerpt: Nine states have passed laws over the past year allowing police or household members to seek court orders requiring people deemed threatening to temporarily surrender their guns, bringing the total to 14. Several more are likely to follow in the months ahead.

Florida passed a red flag law as part of a gun-control package in the wake of the shooting. Aside from New York, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont also have adopted variations since then. California, Connecticut, Indiana, Oregon and Washington already had similar laws.

More than 1,700 orders allowing guns to be seized for weeks, months or up to a year were issued in 2018 by the courts after they determined the individuals were a threat to themselves or others. 

Bottom Line: Nearly a year after the day that forever changed Parkland, and led to comprehensive reforms throughout Florida, it’s a good time for some perspective on the impact of reforms. As was cited in the story, eight additional states passed similar “red flag” reforms. Let’s reset. Here’s what actually changed in Florida as part of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Safety Act:

Gun control: 

  • People under 21 banned from buying or possessing firearms (excluding military & law enforcement) 
  • Ban on bump stocks  
  • Violent Threat Restraining Order - New program which empowers courts to be the arbiters of whether one is of sound mind for the purpose of possessing or buying firearms - with a minimum 60 day waiting period after any official sworn statement provided by law enforcement or person known by the individual in question 

Mental health:  

  • The violent Threat Restraining Order program is ultimately a mental health initiative that segs essentially within Florida's "Baker Act"
  • Increase in mental health councilors in schools throughout the state 

School Safety:  

  • $500 million in increased funding for school security initiatives statewide 
  • Mandatory law enforcement on campus - 1 officer per 1,000 students effective at the beginning of the new school year 
  • Revised code for physical school security including bullet proof glass, metal detectors, improved locking mechanisms for access doors 
  • Mandatory active shooter drills effective with the beginning of the new school year 

General safety:  

  • State run "See something, say something" program - Would allow the state, to coordinate information independent of relying on federal authorities. Would include a 24/7 maintained hotline, app & website in which all Floridians could have ease of access to report concerns and to be informed about potential threats 

So, what’s happened in Florida in the wake of the reforms passed as part of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Safety Act? The first biggie, no school shootings. Here are some of the other details... 

  • 1,000+ orders executed under the red flag mental health provision of the law
  • More than a dozen arrests for credible threats of violence against students/schools on social media 

What hasn’t happened... 

  • Clear evidence of judges/law enforcement aggressively using the new authority to pursue removal of firearms against responsible owners

Florida still retains the highest concealed carry rate in the country and every indication is that overall crime rates are still dropping. Last May when we received the annual FDLE Uniform Crime Report, we learned that Florida’s crime rate reached a 47 year low as gun ownership and concealed carry permits reached record highs. It was then that I demonstrated that the average concealed carry permitted holder was 50% less likely to ever commit a crime compared to a non-gun owner. 

Here’s the point of it all. There’s balance. It’s factually beyond dispute that having responsible, legal gun ownership is beneficial to society. It’s also obvious that having weapons in the hands of unstable and dangerous people isn’t acceptable. I’m not sure if what we passed in Florida is perfect, but it’s been working nearly perfectly given the catalyst that brought it about in the first place.

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