A story we published late last month highlighted the case of Leonardo Lynch, an active-duty sailor stationed in Florida who’s attempt to purchase a handgun last year was rejected.
FDLE informed the gun dealer that Lynch was prohibited from purchasing the weapon and Lynch appealed the denial, which led to the case Leonardo Lynch vs. Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
New York state had an old NICS entry that showed Lynch, or someone with the same name, had been mentally committed, according to Florida Carry, Inc.
New York refused to release any documents related to the NICS entry, which is not a disqualifier but more of a flag for further review. But FDLE took no action and said it does not have to even render a final decision in the case — ever — so no one gets to go to court for judicial review of the denial.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office defended FDLE.
In the response, what Moody’s office claimed in the case is chilling:
1. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) should not be required to produce any evidence or proof that an individual is a prohibited person prior to the denial of a constitutional right.
2. The Court should accept FDLE’s statement that a person is prohibited from purchasing firearms without any evidence to support FDLE’s claim.
3. FDLE can allege that a person is prohibited from purchasing firearms and is not required to offer any evidence that the purchaser is prohibited.
4. FDLE has full discretion as to whether a purchase denial is final, and the courts have no authority to require FDLE to issue a final decision almost a year later.
5. If a purchaser does have a right to the entry of a final decision by FDLE through mandamus the 1st DCA should exercise discretion and refuse to compel a final decision in this case because NY law prevents FDLE from obtaining proof of FDLE’s claims.
6. Compelling FDLE to render a final decision and granting appellate review would force FDLE to give purchasers an approval when FDLE is unable to prove they are a prohibited person.
7. A purchaser prohibited by FDLE cannot require FDLE to render a final decision that would be subject to judicial review.
8. A purchaser FDLE claims is prohibited has no right to appellate judicial review in a Florida court of FDLE’s decision.
9. A purchaser has an obligation to prove they are not a prohibited person even though FDLE has offered no evidence or documentation that the individual is prohibited.
10. A mental health record (that no evidence has been produced even exist) is a criminal history record. Despite a prior AG opinion regarding Florida mental health law that mental health issues should not be treated as criminal cases.
11. FDLE’s statutory authority to create rules for review of criminal history records applies to records that are not criminal history records as defined by Florida law.
12. The specific authority under the Brady Act to bring an action against a denying agency does not apply to a purchaser seeking appellate review of an FDLE denial.
13. FDLE is not subject to the Florida Administrative Procedures Act (APA) when it denies a person the fundamental right to purchase a firearm.
14. A person seeking to purchase a firearm is similar to a criminal seeking to seal or expunge their record.
15. Because the Legislature gave an express right to Concealed Weapon and Firearm License (CWFL) applicants to seek review under the APA but did not give that express right to denied purchasers, the purchaser has no rights under the APA.
After the story was published — on a Saturday morning — I received a call from Lauren Schenone, AG Moody’s Director of Public Affairs.
The attorney general, she said, was now personally reviewing the Lynch case.
“I wanted to follow up our on conversation last night and give you additional information that I have found regarding the case we discussed,” Schenone said Sept. 28. “The Attorney General was notified of this last night and is personally reviewing this case. Our office handles thousands of cases and our office was tasked with representing state agencies.”
Schenone did not respond to calls or emails for this story.
In a response filed five days after Moody allegedly began personally reviewing this case, it appears as though Florida’s Attorney General has doubled down on her anti-gun legal actions.
In her response to a motion for attorney’s fees from Lynch’s lawyer Eric J. Friday, Moody defended FDLE for not making a final decision in the case, which prohibits Lynch from going to court for a judicial review of the denial.
Since the administrative process has not been completed, FDLE has a good faith basis to consider actions pursuant to section 790.065 to be ministerial acts, and ministerial acts are not “final orders” pursuant to section 120.52(7), FDLE cannot be found to have committed a gross abuse of discretion by deferring its final decision in this matter or by failing to render a “final order” by filing it with the agency clerk.
Petitioner also argues that FDLE failed to render a final order for the improper purposes of avoiding judicial review and obfuscating the process. However, the process is clear and Petitioner merely chooses not to follow it. Moreover, Petitioner is not foreclosed from pursuing judicial review if a non-approval by the FDLE is considered a ministerial act because he may file petition for writ of mandamus in the
trial court or an action against FDLE, the appropriate New York agency, or the United States to resolve the matter. See Rowell, 700 So. 2d at 1244-45; 18 U.S.C. §925A; 28 C.F.R. §25.10(f).
Therefore, the FDLE’s interpretation of its duties is not designed to avoid judicial review or obfuscate the process.
WHEREFORE, Respondent requests that this Court deny the Motion for Attorneys Fees and Costs.
It’s the day-to-day cases like Lynch — not the headline grabbers — that will determine whether Attorney General Moody deserves her alleged pro-gun status.
Moody ran for Attorney General with an A rating — 93% — from the National Rifle Association.
She is also working to block a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban “assault weapons” and virtually all semi-automatic firearms.
Therefore — in my humble opinion — one of two things is possible. Either Moody values defending state agencies more than she values the rights of gun owners — as did her predecessor Pam Bondi — or, this whole incident is terribly bad work by her staff.
Either possibility is not good news for Florida gun owners.
I certainly hope things change.