Bill aims to keep guns away from mentally ill
TALLAHASSEE — Florida lawmakers wrapped up work today on their most notable gun-related bill of the year — a proposal aimed at keeping firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill. The Senate passed the bill on a 38-0 vote, sending it to Gov. Rick Scott for his consideration. The measure (HB 1355) easily cleared the House earlier in the session. Advocates for the legislation (HB 1355) included National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer, a former NRA president who has said the measure could save lives. After the Senate vote, Hammer said in a statement that the bill closes a “serious gap” in law, and as a result “dangerous people with mental illnesses will be prohibited from purchasing firearms until they have had successful treatment.”The measure, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Barbara Watson, emerged as the most prominent gun-related bill to come up in the 60-day legislative session that ends Friday. The legislation seeks to close a loophole to guard against gun purchases by people with mental illness. It deals with people who voluntarily admit themselves for treatment, then quickly check out. At that point, they are able to obtain weapons. Under the bill, their names would be put into databases to prevent them from buying guns. The measure seeks to prohibit people from purchasing firearms if a doctor said they posed a danger to themselves or others. If the patient didn't agree to be voluntarily admitted for treatment, an involuntary commitment petition would be filed. Patients who voluntarily committed themselves would do so with the understanding that they would be barred from purchasing firearms. If patients refused to give up their gun-purchasing rights, the involuntary commitment process would proceed. The bill includes a pathway for people to petition the court to regain their gun-purchasing rights after they are treated. A doctor would have to agree that the person should regain the right.