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Lawmakers seek to expand risk protection orders in Florida

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A state senator tells Contact 5 that she plans to introduce legislation to expand the use of red flag laws meant to keep firearms out of the hands of risky Floridians for themselves or for others.

This will be Senator Lori Berman’s fourth attempt to try to expand the use of risk protection orders (RPOs) in Florida – a law that has already been used more than 5,800 times in four years.

Currently, only law enforcement can go to court and ask a judge to remove firearms from a Florida resident deemed a threat to themselves or the community.

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Berman, D-Delray Beach, drafted the original legislation four months before the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, then governor. Rick Scott signed it into law.

However, Berman thinks the law doesn’t go far enough.

She told Contact 5 that she plans to introduce legislation that, if approved, would allow family members to petition a court to remove firearms from a relative who poses a risk to themselves. or for others.

“I think the risk protection order we have in place right now has probably saved many, many lives. We know that over 5,000 firearms have been taken away from people who shouldn’t have have them, so adding the family members is just another step we can take to save more lives,” Berman said. “I really think if you’re a family member, you don’t want to not necessarily have to report your relative to the police, but you would be willing to go to court and ask a judge to remove a gun. You might not want to put your loved ones on the police department’s radar.”

Records recently obtained by Contact 5 show that the law has been used nearly 1,000 times in our region since it came into effect in March 2018. The same records show that judges have denied 64 RPOs in our region during the same period.

Noel Flasterstein, a critic of risk protection orders who is a Second Amendment gun rights advocate, called the law unconstitutional.

He thinks expanding it to allow family members to take cases to a judge will create abuse from disgruntled family members.