In the first two years that Florida’s red flag firearms seizure law was on the books, more than 3,500 petitions were filed with courts across the state, and the orders were approved more than 95% of the time. Critics of the law have pointed out that individuals can be stripped of their right to own a firearm even though they’ve not been arrested or even charged with a crime, and while the red flag law requires a court hearing within two weeks of an order being granted, low-income gun owners are not entitled to a public defender or free legal representation because the court procedure is civil, not criminal in nature.
Some mental health experts are also opposed to the red flag laws, arguing that simply taking guns away without addressing the underlying mental health conditions doesn’t really solve the problem of dangerous individuals. One mental health counselor in Florida says she’s concerned that people who aren’t really a threat to themselves or others could easily get ensnared in the law.
“Are we talking about somebody who’s actively psychotic and out of touch with reality or somebody that’s just really struggling at the time,” Dr. Laura Streyffeler, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, said.
The law was passed after 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. But, Streyffeler is fearful if law enforcement starts to make clinical diagnoses, that could be dangerous.
“I think if we start having them diagnose and take away weapons and have mental health diagnosis as a way that people are going to lose their firearms I think what’s going to happen is people are going to stop looking for help,” Streyffeler said.
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