Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed a bill backed by the National Rifle Association to make it more difficult for the mentally ill to buy guns.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Barbara Watson, D-Miami Gardens, and Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, passed the Legislature with minimal opposition – unanimously in the Senate and with only one vote against it in the House, cast by Rep. John Tobia, R-Melbourne.
However, the measure drew controversy after an email campaign orchestrated by NRA rival groups opposed it.
In a letter he issued when signing the bill, Scott defended his record on gun rights — noting that he turned down a request by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn that he use an executive order to ban guns in Tampa during the Republican National Convention in August.
“During the 2012 GOP Convention, I was asked to issue a temporary executive order to override laws that allow people to carry concealed weapons, which I denied because it was unclear how disarming law-abiding citizens would better protect them from the damages and threats posed by those who would flout the law,” Scott wrote, according to the News Service of Florida.
“Additionally, I’ve signed legislation protecting the privacy of firearm owners and stopping local governments from overreaching in the regulation of firearms.”
State law had already prohibited gun purchases by those involuntarily committed. The new law widens that prohibition to include those who commit themselves for treatment and are considered an “imminent danger” to themselves and others.
While the bill was awaiting Scott’s signature, the Gun Owners of America and the NRA engaged in dueling statements over its impact, with Gun Owners of America calling it a threat that would give the mental health-care industry power over gun rights in Florida.
The NRA defended the bill, which it helped write.
“The problem is that some of these dangerous people with mental illnesses, who are known to be a danger to self or others, immediately revoke their voluntary agreement as soon as they reach the treatment facility. They must then be released within 24 hours. They do it repeatedly. The system has become like a revolving door and is failing,” the NRA wrote.
People with mental illnesses, who are KNOWN to be a danger to self or others, are not being stopped from purchasing firearms
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