MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Hundreds of Floridians Ordered to Surrender Guns Thanks to ‘Red Flag’ Law, Report Says

Critics say the “red flag” law is violating Floridians’ constitutional rights.

Kreangkrai Indarodom/Dreamstime.comKreangkrai Indarodom/Dreamstime.comMore than 450 Floridians have been ordered to surrender their firearms since the state's "red flag" law took effect in March, according to a new report.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed the legislation into law weeks after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, claimed the lives of 17 people. The Risk Protection Act allows authorities to file "risk protection orders" (RPOs) against those who supposedly pose a threat to themselves or others. Such people are not allowed to buy or possess firearms.

According to WFTS, the new law has directly affected 467 people, roughly a quarter of whom have concealed carry permits. WFTS reports:

Since the law took effect in mid-March we've learned the number of risk protection cases filed in Florida now total 467, as of July 24th and according to the FL Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DOACS). DOACS oversees gun permit licensing in Florida and is notified when a petition is filed. An agency spokesperson revealed just over a quarter of risk protection cases filed so far involve concealed license firearm holders whose license temporarily is suspended once the order is granted.

Authorities are more likely to seize guns in some parts of the state than in others. In Broward County, where the Parkland shooting occurred, 88 RPOs have been filed in court (it's up to a judge to decide whether to grant the order). And in Pinellas County, the sheriff's office has filed 64 RPOs. "In all, we've taken in about 200 firearms and around 30,000 rounds of ammunition," Sgt. Jason Schmittendorf of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office told WFTS.

But the "red flag" law has been criticized by those who say it violates Floridians' constitutional rights. Though the legislation is meant to stop violent and/or mentally ill people from carrying out shootings, RPOs have been filed in some cases against perfectly sane, harmless people.

In March, Reason's Jacob Sullum noted the case of Chris Velasquez, a 21-year-old student who allegedly fantasized on Reddit about shooting up schools. After police portrayed him as a serious threat, a judge issued a temporary RPO against him, even though he didn't own a gun in the first place. Velasquez successfully argued that he was simply trolling, and the judge declined to extend the RPO.

"These are individuals who are often exercising their First Amendment rights online, who are protecting constitutionally protected speech online," says Kendra Parris, an attorney who represented Velasquez. "Maybe it was odious, maybe people didn't like it but they were hit with the risk protection order because of it."

It's not terribly difficult for law enforcement to get a temporary RPO. As Sullum points out:

A police officer can obtain a temporary order, lasting up to two weeks, by persuading a judge there is "reasonable cause to believe" that the target "poses a significant danger of causing personal injury" to himself or others "in the near future" if he is allowed to possess firearms. No allegation of mental illness is necessary, and the target has no opportunity to contest the claims about him.

The respondent doesn't get a hearing unless police want the RPO to last for more than two weeks. To do so, law enforcement must prove that "the respondent poses a significant danger of causing personal injury" to himself or others.

Clark Neily, vice president for criminal justice at the Cato Institute, tells Reason that if authorities want to take away someone's guns, they should give him the "opportunity to appear in court" and make his case first. "A procedure that doesn't include" this step, says Neily, whose areas of expertise include constitutional law and gun rights, "is clearly unconstitutional."

Neily doesn't think "red flag" laws in general are unconstitutional, but he expressed concern over the lack of accountability involved in the process of seizing someone's guns. "There's no accountability for judges and prosecutors, and there's almost no accountability for police," he says.

"If you're a law enforcement officer or even a judge, you're unlikely to get in trouble for taking guns away from somebody who really wasn't a threat," Neily adds. "But you'd get in a lot of trouble for failing to take away somebody's guns if they then go do something horrible with them." Thus, "the incentives point in the direction of erring on the side of taking away somebody's guns."

Photo Credit: Kreangkrai Indarodom/Dreamstime.com

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Longtorso, Johnny||

    Just another way for Libs who object to what you say in public to go after you.

  • John||

    This is the system assholes like David French and others on the right argued for. And it of course is being abused.

  • ||

    Yeha fuck this.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "But the "red flag" law has been criticized by those who say it violates Floridians' constitutional rights. Though the legislation is meant to stop violent and/or mentally ill people from carrying out shootings, RPOs have been filed in some cases against perfectly sane, harmless people."

    I'd be surprised if these numbers didn't include a hell of a lot of guys going through a divorce.

    If you're a divorce attorney, why not have your client an RPO against her husband if he's disputing custody of the kids?

    I've never been divorced, but I've known plenty of guys who have, and if that process doesn't make you mentally ill, there's something wrong with you.

  • John||

    It is a simple question of incentives. There is no downside for a judge to grant such orders. If nothing happens, then you can claim it was because you issued the order. If something does, you can't be blamed because you did everything you could. If you refuse the order, however, there is only downside. If nothing happens, no one will care or give you any credit. If something does, you will forever be the judge who refused to do anything about the evil madman.

    So judges have every incentive to give these things out based on the thinnest of reasons.

  • Cy||

    It'd be nice if Governments and Corporations could be sued or jailed when they disarm someone and harm comes to them that could've potentially been avoided had they not been disarmed.

  • DesigNate||

    Well we can't have that.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    Well, why not trash the Fifth Amendment while we're at it, eh?

  • ||

    Freedom of speech, cruel and unusual punishment, jury of your peers, confronting your accusers, keep and bear arms, security in belonging and effects... it really already hits all the highlights.

  • creech||

    Wow, so it looks like more than 200 seem to have lost their firearms when their boat turned over?

  • Juice||

    So red flags can't stand their ground?

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    "No, no, we're not coming for your guns, we're coming for their guns. Those people are violent so obviously they shouldn't have guns."

  • BigChiefWahoo||

    Isn't that how almost every government action is framed? "This tax increase won't affect YOU, it will only affect those rich bastards somewhere." "These new regulations won't affect YOU, they'll only affect those other people somewhere else."

  • Cy||

    The frog get's boiled on a regular basis here in the good ol' US of A.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Unconstitutional.

    2nd Amendment: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

  • BYODB||

    "Shall not be infringed" just means "unless it's, like, common sense or something" these days.

  • ||

    Yeha but what is means this day is retarde. You literally have an ammendment that says shall not be infringed and assholes like Ronald Reagan passed the automatic firearms act. We are always told as childs,your right end at someone else. How come having my gun interrupts your rights? We already have plenty of laws worlwide for harming someone. How is it we need laws for having guns? Seems retarded. Home of the free. Yeha till the state decides what you little plebs can and cannot get.

  • ||

    retard

  • BYODB||


    "These are individuals who are often exercising their First Amendment rights online, who are protecting constitutionally protected speech online," says Kendra Parris, an attorney who represented Velasquez. "Maybe it was odious, maybe people didn't like it but they were hit with the risk protection order because of it."


    Apparently, if you exercise your first amendment rights you might end up losing your second amendment rights. Next up on the agenda, eviscerating the 5th. After all, why should you be allowed to withhold information from the government that might incriminate yourself?


    /sarc

  • Shirley Knott||

    "the incentives point in the direction of erring on the side of taking away somebody's guns."


    Feature, not a bug.

    The precautionary principle hard at work.

  • ||

    Precautionary? Because they get to take your guns ez just in case. But if you happen to need them in that 2 week time then fuck you right? Get fucked the police will solve the case,you were die eventually sooner or later right?

  • ||

    Were going to die

  • Longtobefree||

    and the target has no opportunity to contest the claims about him.

    Something, something, due process, something, bullshit.

    How about I go to a friendly judge and complain that every cop in the state 'might' be batshit crazy and hurt someone else in the next two seeks?

  • Longtobefree||

    Or even the next two weeks?

  • DesigNate||

    Two words: Professional Courtesy.

  • Longtobefree||

    467 illegal confiscation 'orders' signed without due process; how many firearms actually stolen?

  • NoVaNick||

    Probably a lot of these are women who requested RPOs against their ex-boyfriends/husbands just to fuck with them

  • Quintus Slide||

    Which is a much more pervasive problem than men shooting women.

  • ||

    Men shooting women? Is that even a fucking argument you fucking twat? Numbers clearly show men are the main victims of violent crime. By other men. So how come you woman are always the victim? Fuck you.

  • vek||

    Yup.

    99% of these things are going to be chicks who are trying to fuck with their ex-boyfriends/husbands, or other people who are having an unrelated "fight" over whatever stupid shit with somebody. I doubt even 1% of these are going to be a sane, rational, well intended person actually honestly thinking that somebody is feeling/acting unhinged and might ACTUALLY commit a violent act. It's going to be pure revenge/fucking with people all the way.

    It makes me sick. There is no way any law like this should be passed where the person doesn't have a right to contest it day one.

  • Ship of Theseus||

    WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN???

  • Jerry B.||

    Wouldn't have that much problem if these laws included a requirement that the person the RPO order was against, and their attorney,were allowed to show up during the hearing and present their side.

  • vek||

    Exactly. I'm as pro 2A as you can get, and even I will concede that something like that would not be ENTIRELY ridiculous. Some people DO have mental breakdowns and go crazy, even if only temporarily. So something like this with some due process would at least be acceptable, even though it too could be abused.

    But if you can show up and nice and clean cut and go "Your honor, as you can see I'm not some crazy person. I'm a normal hard working guy, who happens to have a pissed off and jealous ex-girlfriend who is trying to harass me." etc etc etc. at least it would be as fair a shake as any other false accusation.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I wonder why people oppose common sense gun registration legislation.

  • ||

    Common sence? You mean fuck you we got you by the balls despite criminals having guns anyway? Retard sence.

  • Quintus Slide||

    First of all, most of you guys are idiots, morally and otherwise. You are more worried that a disgruntled woman might seek a frivolous RPO than you are that her to-be ex might blow her brains out.

    Second, if you're trolling on Reddit about shooting up a school, then screw you.

    Third, the temporary RPO procedure is almost certainly unconstitutional.

  • John||

    First of all, you are a complete moron who has no idea how the law or legal proceedings work and how they are abused. Second of all, you are a complete moron who can't understand that there are larger issues at stake in this than "oh my God what about the poor woman>'

    Do yourself and the rest of the world a favor and stop thinking about or commenting on these issues. A good man needs to know his limitations.

  • ||

    Are you fucking kidding me? So all woman get the power to have police take your fucking guns by force. Get into your house possibly kill you if there is a mixup but yeha woman are the victim. Why did we not think of this unconstitutional totally dependant on the subjective believes of whatever assholes you have in your life law.

  • vek||

    You do know that almost all murders in this country are men killing other men, with something like 50%+ of those more or less being gang related right?

    One can already get a restraining order and call the cops the second somebody shows up... If a crazy ex wants to kill a woman he can do it with his bare hands, a knife, a crowbar, a rope, etc etc etc. Men can kill women in a million ways because we're typically stronger. I know I wouldn't need a gun to murder any woman I've ever banged. Thankfully I'm not a psycho, so it doesn't matter.

    This is purely stupid knee jerk overreaction BS by idiots who can't think rationally. As I have said above if there were up front due process I would at least find it semi-acceptable, but since there isn't it is totally not cool.

  • A Thinking Mind||

    Wait, so reactionary legislation struck "While the iron is hot" might have some adverse consequences that are now harder to deal with? Who would have thought?

  • Whorton||

    If someone is such a threat that you need to deprive them of the ability to even defend themselves, as in the case of 450 individuals!! Why are you not locking them up? Leaving them out gives them an opportunity to acquire a firearm to complete their nefarious deed. Why take the risk and put them on notice?

    If they are that much of a threat, said person needs to be inpatient psych.

    I can see this law being used for nothing but personal grudges.

  • vek||

    Yet another perfectly valid point. If somebody is THAT unhinged practically every state I know of has rules about committing people temporarily for their own protection. The standards for this should be the same, because if you're implying they're so nuts they're going to kill themselves/others, clearly they're too crazy to be running the streets still.

  • ranrod||

    Red Flag Laws Mean Red Flag Rising.. Trump Opens Door For Gun Confiscation In America
    Really? We are going to let the government tell us who is crazy? Folks, this is a HUGE step on the slippery slope toward totalitarianism. Allowing the government to decide who is mentally unfit to own a firearm without due process is patently Stalinesque.
    Face it: In the states that pass these "red flag" laws, police can confiscate the guns of anyone they want. Period. Constitutional due process is absolutely dead in those states. And if the federal government passes a national version of a "red flag" law, constitutional due process is dead in America. Disingenuous politicians, both Republican and Democrat, who pass these Orwellian backdoor gun control laws (which is exactly what "red flag" laws are all about) are only using Marxist-style incrementalism to further destroy the Second Amendment—along with the rest of our Constitution. Rightly are these tyrannical laws called "red flag" laws, because that is exactly what they are.

  • ranrod||

    It took the State of Florida all of one week after a Republican house, senate, and governor passed one of the most draconian gun control bills in U.S. history to begin implementing the so-called red flag portion of the law that allows law enforcement officers to confiscate the firearms of any individual "suspected" of suffering from mental illness.
    In addition to the above 8 states, 22 other states have "red flag" laws pending—as does the federal government. Any government demanding that citizens surrender their Natural and constitutional right to keep and bear arms (or any other Natural, constitutional right) without due process, without any crime being committed, or without any act of violence or any threat of violence being made is a government that is waging war on liberty.
    All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
    https://chuckbaldwinlive.com/ Articles/tabid/109/ID/3719/ Red-Flag-Laws-Mean-Red-Flag-Rising.aspx

  • TxJack 112||

    A good example of the dangers of a police state. The counties which have issued the most RPOs are controlled by Democrats who clearly care less about freedom and more about using the law to disarm people.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online