What is a Risk Protection Order?

Florida's 'red-flag' law allows authorities to confiscate guns from civilians


ORLANDO, Fla. – Since March 2018, authorities in Florida can take guns away from those they find to be a potential harm to themselves or others. 

Three weeks after 17 people were shot to death in Parkland, former Gov. Rick Scott signed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act into law. Within that act were the provisions for the Risk Protection Order Act, which allow officials to confiscate firearms from people they believe could pose a "significant danger."

Many have called the new act Florida's "red-flag law." Its intended purpose is to make it easier for law enforcement to stop crimes like potential mass shootings before they happen by identifying and reporting alarming behavior.

Local authorities did not hesitate to make use of the orders. Just days after the process was signed into law, officers at the University of Central Florida seized a student's family's firearm after that student made posts online idolizing mass shooters.

Risk Protection Orders can be used to confiscate the guns of people who have threatened or committed recent acts of violence against others or themselves, use of force or controlled substances and exhibited reckless behavior. A person that exhibits a serious mental illness may also qualify for confiscation under the order.

In the case of the UCF student, the firearm was returned to the family. The case's judge decided that the student's behavior alone was not enough to justify implement a Risk Protection Order. 

The steps for acquiring a Risk Protection Order are thorough.

In order for a risk protection order to be issued, authorities must file a petition that includes information about how the person in question poses a risk to themself or others and a description of their access to firearms, among other things. The authorities are also required to notify any friends, family members or coworkers who could potentially be in danger.

Once the petition is filed, the judge assigned to the case can decide whether or not to issue a temporary ex-parte risk protection order. If issued, the temporary order functions the same as a regular order, allowing authorities to confiscate guns until a later court hearing.

The results of that hearing will determine if law enforcement officers will take the firearms in question. Authorities can hold firearms for up to 12 months.

Those who have had firearms taken away under a Risk Protection Order can file a petition to have the order terminated. In order to do so, they have to provide "clear and convincing evidence" that they are no longer a threat.