The Deutch-Brooks legislation allows law enforcement to seize weapons first and go to court within 21 days…
In the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre — in which 17 people were killed and 17 injured by a shooter who had previously exhibited mental health issues — Florida established a type of restraining order that allows guns to be taken away from dangerous people.
Since the law took effect, Broward County leads the state in issuance of such orders. “Already in Florida, dozens of incidents now have taken place where law enforcement has used that law to take guns away from people who could do harm who posed a threat to themselves or to their community,” said U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Democrat whose district includes Stoneman Douglas High, in Parkland.
At a Washington, D.C., news conference, Deutch said the Stoneman Douglas shooting shows why such laws are needed. “On February 14 of 2018, a hole was torn out of the heart of our community,” he said. “We cannot do anything to bring them back, by my God, if Congress can’t come together to take action, figure out how to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, then we don’t deserve to be here.”
The measure was endorsed by 24 relatives of people killed in the Parkland massacre.
“The safety of students, teachers and staff in our schools cannot wait. The moment to consider legislation like the Jake Laird Act is right now. We must continue to work together to keep firearms away from those that are an immediate risk to themselves or to others,” they wrote in a letter. “We must be the last families to suffer the loss of a loved one due to a mass shooting at a school. We demand more action to keep our schools safe, and legislation like the Jake Laird Act is a critical piece of the puzzle.”
Laird was an Indiana police officer killed in the line of duty in 2004 by a man who was mentally ill. Indiana passed its law the following year, and it’s the model for the legislation introduced Wednesday by Deutch and U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind.
Six other states — California, Connecticut, Maryland, Oregon, Vermont and Washington — have similar laws. The Deutch-Brooks proposal would encourage other states to join them and provide federal grants to pay for training police in how to deal with situations in which they encounter mentally ill people who have guns.
“Active shooter incidents are on the rise, with many shooters showing signs of some form of mental illness,” Brooks said. “Individuals who commit these atrocities do not just suddenly snap.”
U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla; Bill Nelson, D-Fla.; and Jack Reed, D-R.I., introduced legislation on March 22 similar to what the House lawmakers are planning.
The Rubio-Nelson-Reed legislation would encourage states to pass laws allowing law enforcement officers or family members of individuals to ask a court to grant an “extreme risk protection order.” Weapons could be removed if the court finds “clear and convincing evidence” that someone “poses a significant danger of causing personal injury to himself or herself or others by possessing or purchasing a firearm.”
One major difference: the Deutch-Brooks legislation allows law enforcement to seize weapons first and go to court within 21 days. Brooks said it still requires “probable cause” for police to seize weapons.
The Rubio-Nelson measure requires court action before seizure, she said.
Deutch said the Indiana law is a good model because it has been in effect for 13 years and was implemented in a conservative state with a Republican-controlled Legislature and signed into law by a Republican governor. Brooks said the law has been used more than 600 times in Indianapolis since 2005; statewide data aren’t compiled.
The National Rifle Association is generally able to block congressional action on legislation it doesn’t want. And the NRA has had different positions on such laws, sometimes arguing that they can interfere with individuals’ Second Amendment rights to own guns.
After the Stoneman Douglas massacre, the NRA’s chief lobbyist said in a YouTube video the organization would support such laws, as long as there are sufficient due process protections for gun owners. But the gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety said it was skeptical about the NRA’s sincerity.
Brooks said supporters of the legislation “have been in conversation with the NRA,” adding that “I know, too, they are interested in ensuring that individuals who are mentally ill should not have access to firearms.”
She referred questions to the organization. A representative at the NRA press office didn’t immediately have any comment.
Deutch said he and Brooks believe “this is an issue where we need to work together across party lines to get something done.” They were joined at the Capitol Hill news conference by two other sponsors, U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., and Fred Upton, R-Mich.
©2018 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.