Some of the calls for solutions and action in the wake of the Parkland shooting are already in place, but in a theme that citizens have become all too accustomed to seeing, authorities are not employing those standards properly -- including a gun-background law passed years ago that has gone largely unrecognized.
One of the gun safety reforms called for by advocates is tighter restrictions on purchases by those with mental health issues. Federal law holds that anyone who has been committed to a mental health facility, by family members or court order under Florida’s Baker Act, would be entered into the national databases. This would be revealed during mandatory background checks and the sale of a gun would be denied. However a major oversight was discovered.
Individuals who voluntarily committed themselves for treatment would not have their records submitted, and these comprised the overwhelming majority of cases. That was why, in 2013, the Florida Legislature expanded the law to also include the self-admitted cases to be submitted into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Gov. Scott signed it into law. However nearly five years later those numbers of mental health records have not increased significantly.
For reasons few in power can explain, despite this law's passage, very little has changed in the reporting of mental health cases to NICS. In 2017 just over 990,000 background checks were conducted, but of those only 871 were denied due to mental health reports. Why was this number so low? Because only one of Florida's 67 counties -- Hillsborough -- has a record of compliance with the expanded 2013 reporting law.
In this climate of accusations and demands for action, we see yet another way authorities have been failing the citizens via inaction. The Broward Sheriff's Office and FBI had been previously alerted to Cruz expressing his desire to shoot up the school. This is an arrestable offense under Florida statute and the felony would have invalidated his right to purchase a gun. Additionally, had at any time Cruz been committed for mental health assistance, he should have appeared on the federal NICS.
Cruz had been moved to six schools over three years due to problems, including one that was an alternative campus dedicated to students with emotional and behavioral problems. During numerous visits at the home BSO had been made aware of the emotional condition of the youth. In one report from the Department of Children and Families it was noted that Cruz had expressed to two separate school officials he was depressed and was cutting himself. In this same report DCF expressed concern over his admitted desire to own a gun.
All of this placed on record, and yet no intervening action was taken. Not for his threats, nor his numerous revelations of mental health issues. Yet the news is filled with accusations and blame leveled by those shown to have been derelict in their charged duties on this particular case.
Brad Slager is a Fort Lauderdale freelance writer who wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News. He writes on politics and the entertainment industry and his stories appear in such publications as RedState and The Federalist.