DATE: June 19, 2013
TO: USF & NRA Member and Friends
FROM: Marion P. Hammer
USF Executive Director
NRA Past President
False information is being circulated about House Bill 1355 by people who do not have a clue what the bill actually does or why it is needed. Many gun owners are being deceived by reckless people who are sending out e-mail blasts attacking the bill as being anti-Second Amendment. Unfortunately, some well-meaning folks have asked the Governor to veto HB-1355 based on misinformation. The Governor needs to sign HB-1355.
The truth is HB-1355 is very limited. It does NOT cover people who voluntarily go to private counseling for help. It does NOT cover people who voluntarily go to a doctor for help. It does NOT cover people who voluntarily go to a public clinic for help.
It ONLY applies to people with mental illnesses who are already in a mental health facility under a Baker Act petition AND who have subsequently been diagnosed as being an imminent danger to self or others.
The bill has two triggers: the Baker Act commitment and the diagnosis of being an imminent danger to self or others. The bill has no effect on anyone else.
Currently, people being held in a mental health facility under a Baker Act Commitment and who are subsequently determined to be a danger to themselves or others, may voluntarily agree to be committed for treatment to avoid going to court.
If they don’t voluntarily agree to treatment, a petition is then filed for a court hearing for involuntary commitment. When a court orders a commitment, the person's name is entered into the National Instant Check System (NICS) database of people who are prohibited from purchasing firearms. If they voluntarily agree to commitment their names are NOT entered in to the database.
The problem is that some of these dangerous people with mental illnesses, who are known to be a danger to self or others, immediately revoke their voluntary agreement as soon as they reach the treatment facility. They must then be released within 24 hours. They do it repeatedly. The system has become like a revolving door and is failing. People with mental illnesses, who are KNOWN to be a danger to self or others, are not being stopped from purchasing firearms.
Under HB-1355, people in this category may still agree to voluntary commitment for treatment, but they would be informed (and must sign a statement acknowledging that they have been informed) that because they are deemed to be dangerous, their names will be entered into the NICS database until they have had treatment and are no longer considered a danger to themselves or others and may apply to have their names removed from the database. The process for removing a name from the database is exactly the same as already prescribed in law for those who have been involuntarily committed for treatment.
If the person disagrees or feels strongly about not giving up his gun rights, the person can refuse voluntary commitment and a petition for involuntary commitment would move ahead through the full court process, in which the person has the opportunity to fight it in court.
When the NRA was asked by the Judge who chairs the Florida Supreme Court Task Force on Mental Illness (Judge Steve Leifman) and by Representative Barbara Watson to help solve the problem of constructing language to give the maximum protection to the rights of dangerous people with mental illnesses, we agreed to try.
The NRA worked with the Judge, bill sponsors, Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and legislative staff in the House and Senate to protect gun rights as well as find a way to help keep dangerous people with mental illnesses from being able to purchase firearms. That's what this bill does.
Right now, the head of an organization based in Colorado, who has not been involved in the legislative process here in Florida, who has not worked with the Judges or bill sponsors, or FDLE or the FBI, who has not been in Florida for committee hearings or meeting with legislators and who appears to be deliberately misrepresenting the effect of the bill and existing law – has been sending out erroneous, inflammatory information in the form of e-mail blasts encouraging people to ask the Governor to veto this bill.
They are essentially telling the Governor and gun owners all over the country that they think it's OK for dangerous people with mental illness to be able to purchase guns. That is irresponsible. Unfortunately, some folks have taken those false e-mails at face value, and asked the Governor to veto the bill based on erroneous information.
The NRA and Unified Sportsmen of Florida support the bill. We worked hard to protect the rights of the mentally ill as well as the rights of those who might fall victim to dangerous people with mental illnesses. All too often the perpetrators of mass tragedies who used guns were known to have mental illness, but nobody did anything. We believe that lives can be saved by keeping dangerous people with mental illnesses from being able to purchase guns.
Please e-mail Governor Scott right away and urge him to sign HB-1355
IN THE SUBJECT LINE PUT: PLEASE SIGN HB-1355
PLEASE E-MAIL GOVERNOR SCOTT TODAY