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South Florida lawmakers push to expand state's 'red flag' law

State Sen. Lori Berman believes some uncomfortable reporting relatives to law enforcement; attorney Noel Flasterstein opposes risk protection orders
Posted at 4:26 PM, Jan 27, 2023

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A pair of South Florida lawmakers are trying to expand Florida's "red flag" law meant to keep firearms away from those who pose a threat to themselves or others.

Legislation filed by both state Sen. Lori Berman, D-Boynton Beach, and Rep. Kelly Skidmore, D-Boca Raton, would give family members, including spouses, siblings, parents, stepparents and grandparents, the ability to petition a judge to temporarily remove a gun from a relative using a risk protection order. Right now, only law enforcement can do that.

Berman told Contact 5 she's hoping her fourth attempt at filing this legislation will be a success.

State Sen. Lori Berman on Florida's 'red flag' law
State Sen. Lori Berman, D-Boynton Beach, wants to expand upon Florida's "red flag" law, which would give family members the ability to petition a judge to temporarily remove a gun from a relative using a risk protection order.

"I think that there are people who feel uncomfortable having to report their relatives to law enforcement," Berman said.

Records obtained by Contact 5 show 9,696 risk protection orders have been granted and 590 have been denied statewide since March 2018.

The records also show judges in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and Okeechobee counties granted 1,173 risk protection orders and denied 70 during that same period of time.

Map showing number of risk protection orders granted and denied in viewing area since March 2018

Abigail Langweiler, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, supports the bill and believes Florida's "red flag" law doesn't go far enough.

"If we are relying solely on law enforcement to petition the court for a risk protection order to temporarily remove guns from someone, I think that's too late," Langweiler said.

Second Amendment gun rights attorney Noel Flasterstein told Contact 5 he believes the premise of risk protection orders is unconstitutional.

Abigail Langweiler believes Florida's 'red flag' law doesn't go far enough
Abigail Langweiler, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, tells Contact 5 investigative reporter Michael Buczyner that she doesn't believe Florida's "red flag" law goes far enough. "If we are relying solely on law enforcement to petition the court for a risk protection order to temporarily remove guns from someone, I think that's too late," she says.

"If I have concerns about the safety of one of my relatives, whether the safety is harm to themselves or to others, I'm not going to say, 'Well, let me go file a petition.' No, I'm going to call law enforcement," Flasterstein said. "This is going to do absolutely nothing to protect people from gun violence."

Flasterstein told Contact 5 he's concerned that the legislation could be weaponized by feuding family members if it were to become law.

"All it's going to do is bring, you know, squabbling family members, relatives, into the court system," Flasterstein said. "This is just going to overburden our courts. It does nothing to stop gun violence. All it does is probably what it's, you know, really aimed for, is to make it easier to disarm law-abiding citizens."

Berman disagrees.

"I always hear this about the vengeful spouse. That seems to be, like, the biggest argument, and that's why we have a judge," Berman said. "That's exactly what the judge is there for – to determine the facts."

Despite her efforts, Berman thinks getting the proposed legislation signed into law will be a challenge as she believes there's not an appetite for it in Tallahassee.

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