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Broward Leads All Counties In Enforcement of 'Red Flag' Gun Law

May 2, 2018 - 2:00pm
Confiscated guns (from a re-enactment)
Confiscated guns (from a re-enactment)

Broward County is leading the state in enforcement of the new gun restrictions Gov. Rick Scott signed into law in March. 

The Red Flag gun law, passed March 5, was written to allow local law enforcement to confiscate weapons from those displaying emotional problems, or posing a direct danger to others. This made Florida one of the select-few states to have such a law.

In the emotional weeks following the loss of 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, many Floridians -- in fact, many Americans -- called for a strengthening of Florida's gun laws. 

A number of new gun restrictions were suggested and many passed, despite no connection to the mass shooting Feb. 14. A ban on bump stocks, and an extension of the waiting period to buy a gun were also passed, even though those components had no relevance in the Parkland shooting. (Other suggested ideas, such as banning high-capacity magazines, and banning sales to those on the terrorist watch list, also bore no connection to events in Parkland.)

With the Red Flag law now in effect, the Sun-Sentinel looked into how counties across the state were enacting the new legislation. The newspaper found that, while many had begun to use this new tool, Broward county far exceeded all others in the enforcement and seizing of firearms under this law. To date, Broward authorities have taken a confiscation action 34 times. The Orlando area was a distant second, with a total of just five cases.

Given that Parkland is a Broward County city, it makes sense the county would be far more active in the implementation of this new power. Of the 34 cases cited, the Broward Sheriff’s Office led all agencies in the county, having used Red Flag laws 19 times. 

This will surely be seen as a reaction to the reports the Broward Sheriff's Office didn't take more proactive steps during the numerous visits deputies made to the home of the shooter in the months preceding the tragedy. That inertia of authority is regarded as the motivation to create and pass the "red flag" portion of the bill.

What will remain to be clarified is how much of this law will be retained. There are sure to be some legal challenges regarding enforcement. The red flag legislation is a difficult one to detail, and there is still a struggle to get a comprehensive solution in place. Most agree on the need to have authorities step in when, say, an individual threatens mass violence. The converse challenge is doing so without the right of due process.

As this law passed, it was not met with much resistance from the National Rifle Association. Instead, the NRA has been more focused on legislators raising the age of ownership to 21 years, stating this not only impacts Second Amendment rights, but also the 14th Amendment, under the guarantee of equal protection of the law. The Red Flag challenges are likely to be argued on a case-by-case basis, where an individual may argue he had guns taken without a trial or conviction. 

There is a probability of changes and challenges to the law going forward, given the rush placed on passing it two months ago. Many marveled at how quickly after the tragedy legislators acted. But writing a bill in that emotional cloud means there is an increased chance of pragmatic thought being applied incorrectly.

Brad Slager, a Fort Lauderdale freelance writer, 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.

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