More than 450 people in Florida have been ordered to surrender their guns months after a new gun law took effect.
Passed shortly after the Parkland school shooting in February, the law temporarily strips gun owners of their gun rights and weapons if a judge rules they are a threat to themselves or others, reports WFTS-TV, the ABC affiliate in the Tampa Bay area.
About 200 firearms and 30,000 rounds of ammunition have been confiscated in the state since the law was enacted in mid-March, according to Sgt. Jason Schmittendorf of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
A five-member team assigned to risk protection cases in Pinellas County has filed 64 risk protection petitions, the station reported, with a total of 467 in the state as of July 24.
The majority of risk protection cases in the county have involved people with histories of mental illness who threatened to hurt themselves, not others, WFTS said.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri explained to the station why he decided to devote an entire unit to carry out the new law.
“It’s a constitutional right to bear arms, and when you are asking the court to deprive somebody of that right we need to make sure we are making good decisions, right decisions and the circumstances warrant it,” he said.
According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which oversees gun permit licensing, a little more than a quarter of risk protection cases filed so far involve concealed license firearm holders whose license temporarily is suspended once the order is granted.
Attorney Kendra Parris told WFTS she believes the law violates the U.S. Constitution.
She points out the law has impacted people who don’t have histories of violence or mental illness.
“These are individuals who are often exercising their First Amendment rights online, who are protecting constitutionally protected speech online,” she said. “Maybe it was odious, maybe people didn’t like it but they were hit with the risk protection order because of it.”
Parris noted the well-publicized case of University of Central Florida student Chris Velasquez, who had a risk protection case filed against him in March after he praised mass shooters online. Another case involved a minor who had a dream of killing.
The lawyer represented both in court, defeating petitions that would have prevented them from possessing a gun for at least one year. Neither owned a weapon at the time of the petition.
“The people whom I’ve represented fought back because they care about their future not because they cared about owning firearms,” Parris told WFTS.
She advises narrowing the law to apply to people with proof of gun ownership or those who have histories of attempting to purchase one. And she things apparent threats posed by respondents should be confined to cases of an “imminent” threat.