Florida’s Broward County, whose sheriff’s office came under criticism in the wake of the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida for being too timid, has now become aggressive in using a new state law to confiscate guns, according to a report in the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Through Thursday, Broward County police agencies had used Florida’s new “red flag” law 34 times to get guns away from individuals who can be ruled to be at risk of either harming themselves or others.
The Sun Sentinel did its own survey, and found that since the law was passed March 9, the Orlando area has used it six times. Miami-Dade County has had four orders issued against individuals. The law has been used three times in the Tampa area.
“I think law enforcement in Broward is under a lot of scrutiny, and they are taking every precaution available under the law to protect this community,” said Broward Circuit Judge Jack Tuter, who rules on the applications to have individuals’ guns taken away.
He said about half the orders involved “mental health crises.”
The Broward County’s Sheriff’s Office has used the new law 15 times, while the other 19 orders in Broward County were obtained by other local police agencies.
“For us it’s not about the numbers. It’s about utilizing the tools at our disposal to ensure the safety of our community,” said Keyla Concepcion, a spokeswoman for the BCSO.
Not everyone is on board with how the law is being applied.
Kendra Parris, an attorney, is currently representing a teenager from Pembroke Pines and successfully defeated an attempt to take away the guns of an Orlando man.
“This constitutes state action against protected speech — online in private forums,” Parris said. “It’s an overly broad statute. … The legislature needs to go back to the drawing board, respect individuals’ due process rights.”
The Pembroke Pines incident was sparked by a girl’s comment on social media, and included a two-hour interview with police during which Parris said the girl was quizzed about watching the TV show “The Vampire Diaries.”
In the Orlando case, Parris said a comment attributed to her client was never made by him.
“This is the sort of issue society needs to look at from both sides,” said NRA Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer. “You want to take guns away from dangerous people, but you don’t want to see an overreaction where citizens are deprived of their property because officials didn’t take the time to investigate the situation properly.”
Broward defense lawyer Jim Lewis said the law needs revision.
“It’s an infringement upon the Second Amendment rights of Americans, arbitrarily applied,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair. But we’ll work it out in time.”
The law was proposed after the Feb. 14 shooting, and was approved March 9. It received support from Sen. Marco Rubio, Axios reported.
“If a ‘red flag’ law like this existed before Feb. 14, instead of just calling the FBI hotline, someone close to the Parkland shooter could have gotten a court order to take away his guns before he took 17 lives,” the Florida Republican said.
More states are considering “red flag” laws. Delaware recently approved one, The Washington Post reported.
However, the long-term impact of such laws is unclear. In an editorial that supported “red flag” laws, the Detroit News noted that Travis Reinking, accused of killing four people last weekend in a Waffle House restaurant near Nashville, had his guns taken away in Illinois, but later had them returned to him by his family.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.