1,000+ Floridians have had weapons taken under new law

Critics say law is severely flawed

By Louis Bolden - Investigative Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - More than a thousand Floridians have had their weapons taken since the Legislature implemented a new law.

Risk protection orders allow law enforcement officers to petition the court to take someone's weapons if the person poses a significant danger to himself or others.

The law was passed after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018 and took effect in March of the same year.

From March to November of 2018, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office filed the third-highest number of risk protection orders of any county in the state; only Broward and Polk counties filed more.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said RPOs are a necessary tool.

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"There are people in our community, in our society, that have significant mental health issues," he said. "In the past, we've had to leave these firearms where people have access to them."

But the law is controversial because the Second Amendment grants everyone, with some exceptions, the right to bear arms.

Gualtieri said he does not believe the law violates people's constitutional rights.

Attorney Kendra Parris, who has represented 11 people who had risk protection orders filed against them, disagrees.

"Florida's law suffers from very serious constitutional defects," Parris said.

Parris said the law is seriously flawed and is applied differently depending on the county.

"I think the law isn't being applied evenly, because it's written poorly and it's too vague," she said.

Parris said she has also seen RPOs misused, like a client of hers who had an order filed against him by the Lake Mary Police Department in August of last year.

The person it was filed against was arrested after he allegedly pushed his wife to the floor, and told her he was going to kill her, according to the order.

The accusations were later proven to be false, according to Parris.

The criminal charges and the RPO were later dropped, but they are public records, so all of the accusations against the husband are still available for anyone to see.

"People are going to have private details published and sometimes those details are going to be false and it's going to haunt them for life," she said.

If granted, RPOs are effective for one year.  After that, the respondent can file to have the order removed and have their guns returned.

However, law enforcement agencies can also file to have the order extended. A judge evaluates the case and makes a ruling.
 
 

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