Saying families are the first to spot troubling behavior, Democratic lawmakers propose changes to state gun-safety law

As part of a package of gun control legislation passed last year after the mass shooting  at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, state lawmakers included a so-called “red flag law.” It allows  police officers to ask a judge for permission to temporarily take guns from someone they believe poses a threat to themselves or others.

The new “red flag” (also called a “risk protection order”)  law differs what some other states have passed because it doesn’t allow family members to be the ones who petition a judge about someone they believe poses a threat to themselves or others.

Some Democratic lawmakers want to change that. They’ve introduced a bill for the 2019 legislative session that would allow family members to petition the court.

“Bottom line is that families know each other best,” said Kate Kile with the Tallahassee chapter of Moms Demand Action, a gun-control group. “They can see the same incremental changes that no one else may notice.”

The bill would also require counties to report how many risk protection orders are issued or denied every year. And it would require that, once a judge issues a risk protection order, anyone in the household stores firearms safely.

“Who better to determine if someone is at risk than someone very close to them? Enough is enough,” Delray Beach Democratic state Senator Lori Berman said at a press conference at the Capitol on Thursday. “How many moms, dads, brothers, sisters, children and friends must live through tragedies before we actually implement changes in our gun laws?”

Berman said she had heard that Broward County has filed 400 risk protection orders since July, but because there aren’t accurate statistics being collected, no one knows for certain how many judges have issued.

Thirteen states have similar laws, with half of those passed after the South Florida school shooting tragedy last year.

An academic study on the effect of “red flag” laws in Indiana and Connecticut between 1981-2015 showed the number of gun suicides went down in both states.

“It’s time that families have more protections than guns or gun owners,” Tampa Democratic state Senator Janet Cruz said.

Berman said that the Republican leadership in the state Legislature opposed including families in the law that passed last year, but she expressed optimism that it will have more political support this year.

The bill is being sponsored by Weston Democrat Richard Starke in the House.

 

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