‘Baker Act’ gun bill needed says Florida NRA chief


Former NRA president and Florida NRA chief Marion Hammer says there is “erroneous information” being circulated about HB-1355, the so-called “Baker Act” bill.

In emails and phone calls Thursday, Hammer said the opposition is coming from several internet-based gun groups – including some I have never heard of – and others “who don’t have a clue what the bill actually does or why it is needed.”

One of the out-of-state-groups tries to link the bill to controversial national gun control legislation.

HB-1355 is very limited, Hammer said.

Former NRA president Marion Hammer

Former NRA president Marion Hammer

“It is not about people who voluntarily go to private counseling for help. It is not about people who voluntarily go to a doctor for help.  It is not about people who voluntarily go to a public clinic for help,” Hammer wrote. “It ONLY applies to people with mental illnesses who are already  in a mental health facility under a Baker Act petition and who have subsequently been diagnosed as being an imminent danger to self or others.”

The bill has two triggers:  the Baker Act commitment and the diagnosis of being an imminent danger to self or others. The bill has no effect on anyone else, she wrote.

Note: I will welcome comments from anyone opposed to HB1355.

Here’s Hammer’s statement about the legislation:

Currently the people who are effected by this bill may voluntarily agree to commitment for treatment. If they don’t agree voluntarily, a petition is filed for court ordered involuntary commitment. When a court orders commitment, their names are entered into the NICS database of people who are prohibited from purchasing firearms.  If they voluntarily agree to commitment their names are NOT entered in to the database.

The problem is that some of these dangerous people immediately revoke their voluntary agreement as soon as they reach the treatment facility and must be released within 24 hours.  And they do it repeatedly. The system is failing. People with mental illnesses, who are known to be a danger to self or others, are not being stopped from purchasing firearms.

Under the bill, these people may still agree to voluntary commitment/treatment but they would be informed that because they are deemed to be dangerous, their names will be entered into the NICS database until they have had treatment and are no longer considered a danger to self or others and may apply to have their names removed from the database.  The process for removing a name from the database is exactly the same as proscribed in law for those who have been involuntarily committed for treatment.

If the person disagrees or feels strongly about not giving up his gun rights, the person can refuse voluntary commitment and a petition for involuntary commitment would move ahead through the full court process and he/she can fight it in court.

Recently, NRA conducted a national scientific survey of NRA members nationwide to determine how NRA members view today’s issues.

On the question of guns in the hands of the mentally ill – 91 % of NRA members said they SUPPORT laws to keep guns out of the hands of people with mental illnesses.

When NRA was asked by the Judge who chairs the Florida Supreme Court Task Force on Mental Illness and by Rep. Barbara Watson to help solve the problem of constructing language to give the maximum protection to the rights of dangerous people with mental illnesses, we agreed to try.

The NRA worked with the Judge, bill sponsors, FDLE, FBI and legislative staff to protect gun rights as well as find a way to help keep dangerous people with mental illnesses from being able to purchase firearms. That’s what the bill does.

Right now, some organization or someone who has not been involved in the legislative process here in Florida;  who has not worked with the Judges or bill sponsors, or FDLE or the FBI; who has not been in Florida for committee hearings or meeting with legislators;  and who is obviously challenged when it comes to reading and understanding legislative bill construction and existing law  – has been sending out erroneous, inflammatory information and encouraging people to ask Florida’s Governor to veto this bill.

They essentially are telling the Governor that they think it’s OK for dangerous people with mental illness to be able to purchase guns.   And obviously, anyone asking the Governor to veto the bill is doing so based on erroneous information.


About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

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