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Representative Watson files legislation to prohibit purchases of firearms by the mentally ill

Rep. Barbara Watson

Representative Watson files legislation to prohibit purchases of firearms by the mentally ill

Bill closes gap in the Baker Act Process

By Shelia Robinson

      Tallahassee, FL – Since the fourth week in January, 2013, Florida State Rep. Barbara Watson has been consulting with subject matter experts from the Florida Supreme Court Mental Health Task Force, the National Rifle Association, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to further enhance Florida’s ability to keep persons with mental illnesses who are known to be a danger to themselves or others from purchasing firearms in Florida. “I am pleased to have the support of experts with whom we have worked to develop a bill that will give us further protection against people with mental illnesses buying firearms,” said Representative Watson.

     The specific problem, identified by Rep. Watson, deals with situations where people with mental illnesses who are a danger to self or others agree to a voluntary commitment for treatment to avoid an involuntary commitment proceeding, then quickly check themselves out of the mental health facility and have no record in the National Instant Check System (NICS) database to prohibit them from purchasing a fire-arm.

     Under HB 1355, a person could be prohibited from purchasing a firearm if the examining physician finds the person imminently dangerous to himself or others and files a special certificate that if the person doesn’t agree to voluntary commitment for treatment, an involuntary commitment petition will be filed. 

     At the time the person is diagnosed as dangerous, the person would receive written notice of the certification and agrees to accept voluntary commitment with a full understanding that he or she will be prohibited from purchasing a firearm or applying for a concealed weapons or firearms license or retaining one.

     The bill would require speedy transmission of this in-formation to the county court; if a judge approves the record for submission to the instant check system, it is sent along quickly to the FDLE for entry into NICS. Relief from the disability would be available through the existing statutory process.

     If the person disagrees or feels strongly about not giving up his gun rights, the person can refuse to sign and the petition for involuntary commitment can move ahead.

     Essentially, the bill language closes the gap in the Baker Act process and allows the state to put a prohibition on dangerous people who should be prohibited from having a firearm.

 

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    Carma Lynn Henry Westside Gazette Newspaper 545 N.W. 7th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311 Office: (954) 525-1489 Fax: (954) 525-1861

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