WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A state senator tells Contact 5 that she plans to file legislation to expand the use of red flag laws meant to keep guns out of the hands of Floridians who pose a risk to themselves or others.
This will be Sen. Lori Berman's fourth attempt at trying to expand the use of risk protection orders (RPOs) in Florida — a law that has already been used more than 5,800 times in four years.
Right now, only law enforcement can go to court and petition a judge to remove firearms from a Florida resident thought to pose a threat to themselves or the community.
Berman, D-Delray Beach, crafted the original legislation four months before the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and then-Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law.
However, Berman believes the law doesn't go far enough.
She told Contact 5 that she plans to file legislation, that if approved, would allow family members to petition a court for the removal of firearms from a relative who poses a risk to themselves or others.
"I think the risk protection order that we have in place right now has probably saved many, many lives. We know it's over 5,000 guns removed from individuals who should not have had them, so adding the family members is just another step that we can do to save more lives" Berman said. "I really feel that if you're a family member, you don't necessarily want to have to report your relative to police, but you would be willing to go to court and ask a judge to take a gun away. You might not want to put your relatives on the radar of the police department."
Records recently obtained by Contact 5 show the law has been utilized nearly 1,000 times in our area since it took effect in March 2018. The same records show judges denied 64 RPOs across our area during the same time.
Noel Flasterstein, a critic of risk protection orders, who is a second amendment gun rights attorney, called the law unconstitutional.
He believes expanding it to allow family members to petition a judge will create abuse by disgruntled family members.