The morose connection continues to strengthen between the recent tragic mass shootings and mental illness. Investigators have now revealed the conclusive evidence surrounding the psychosis which plagued the shooter at the Washington Naval Yard. For this reason, some argue that stronger gun control measures for the mentally ill could have prevented the wrongful deaths of countless innocent victims. Floridians debate whether the best remedy is spending time and money on treating mental illness or implementing new gun control laws which would in theory prevent the mentally ill from being able to purchase them. Despite one’s stance on this highly complicated issue, it’s vital to gain a better understanding of Florida’s current law as it relates to the mentally ill and their legal rights to purchase guns.
What does FL law say about gun control for mentally ill?
Until recently, Florida’s Baker Act was the only law in existence which prevented the mentally ill from purchasing weaponry. But the Baker Act left a gaping loop hole. That is, all but 99% of the mentally ill. Historically, Florida has only restricted guns from the mentally ill who were admitted “involuntarily” to treatment. Only one percent, 90,000 to be exact, of all mentally ill individuals are ever forced to treatment beyond their control. This reality has provided the majority of mentally ill persons with the legal right to purchase guns.
However, in April of 2013, Florida House and Senate passed the only bill approved by the National Rifle Association (NRA); which prohibits gun buying by anyone who has “voluntarily” committed himself or herself to treatment for mental illness. Since the Criminal Justice Committee rejected 13 other gun control bills, Floridians are starting to take notice. And ask questions.
Florida’s Mental Competency database (MECOM) is designed to keep track of the mentally ill and prevent gun-buying. On the federal level, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is another option to keep closer watch over gun purchases by mentally ill. Critics want to know, why are so many mentally ill persons purchasing guns if our state has access to valuable information? The problem isn’t accessing the information, it’s reporting. Florida has been criticized for showing grave negligence in reporting mentally ill records to both of these databases.
Aside from the issue of Florida’s lag in reporting, is the availability of gun-buying at trade shows and via the internet. Since the laws only provide background checks for retail stores, thousands of guns are sold without any form of monitoring within the widest arena of most gun purchases.
While state and federal efforts are being pushed forth, many don’t realize that Florida already has seven counties with preventative measures for gun control for the mentally ill. For example, Miami-Dade County issues either a 60-day sentence or a $500 penalty when guns are sold without a proper background check. Nevertheless, investigative reports reveal that these ordinances are rarely, if ever upheld, simply due to the lack of time and resources held by Florida law enforcement agencies.
If you know a loved one who is a victim of an act of violence or wrongful death, contact the Law Offices of David Benenfeld, a South Florida Wrongful Death Attorney, for a free legal consultation to determine if you have a case. Call [number type=”2″] or [number type=”1″].