Florida’s Risk Protection Orders

On Friday we learned that the Royal Palm Beach killer clearly indicated his desire to kill well in advance. This included concerning behavior described by his ex-wife and a literal posting on Facebook regarding the desire to kill “people and children”. The sadness of these missed warning signs, which would certainly have led to the use of risk protection measures by authorities had they been warned, led me to review Florida’s use of risk protection orders to see how many people are “seeing and saying something”.

As part of the comprehensive gun control measures passed under the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Safety Act, were Florida’s “red flag”, or risk protection laws. This enabled law enforcement to be able to carry out a warrant to search and detain firearms from a person deemed to be a credible mental health risk under the state’s law. Once the order is carried out, a legal process ensues and ultimately, it’s a judge’s discretion as to if the firearms are to be returned to those they were detained from originally.

Given the sensitivity of the topic and the concern by lawful gun owners that this potentially is government overreach, I’ve been following the adaptation by the state. To date, it seems to have been carried out responsibly. Through the first two full years of reporting from the state, we’re continuing to see an average of 5-6 daily uses of risk protection orders in Florida. 

Clearly, it’s become a standard practice for law enforcement across our state, though uses of them have varied considerably based on county. On a relative basis, Broward remains one of the most aggressive counties in the state for use of the red flag protection order. Out of Florida’s 67 counties, the tri-county area rated 13th for Broward, 39th for Miami-Dade, and 44th for Palm Beach.

We’ll never know if any of these orders being carried out prevented another attack. Regardless, and thankfully, we haven’t had any like what led to the creation of this law. As we look forward, it’s worth noting that according to the FBI database, only 25% of mass murderers are from a medical perspective. Based on a recent study by Everytown, 56% of murderers document their intent to kill prior to doing so. 

Gun Close-up Getty RF

Photo: Photo by: Getty Images

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