After mass shootings, little changes in Florida on mental illness and access to guns
In the days after five people were shot and killed in Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, some elected officials adopted a familiar routine.
As news spread that the suspected gunman told FBI agents in Alaska that he was hearing voices, Florida officials called for improvements to mental health care and tougher measures to keep guns away from people with severe psychological disorders.
The Jan. 6 mass shooting was just the latest to be followed by hand-wringing from politicians, particularly gun-rights supporters, who blamed shortcomings in the mental health system for the tragedy.
Despite years connecting mental illness and mass shootings, lawmakers in both parties have been reluctant to pass major legislation taking firearms out of the hands of people diagnosed with severe disorders.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott showed how quickly politicians can retreat after a call to action.
“One thing we have to think about is if someone is adjudicated mentally ill, it just doesn’t make any sense that they should have access to a gun,” he told reporters a week after the Fort Lauderdale shooting.
Scott and his spokespeople refused several requests by the Times/Herald to elaborate on what type of fix this would require. When pressed, he finally begged off further involvement.
“I support the Second Amendment, but I want to make sure that families in our state are safe,” Scott said when asked for details late last month in Tampa. “Whatever the Legislature wants to do — I’m not part of the legislative branch — I’ll review.”
Scott, who often lobbies the Legislature on priorities like tax cuts, could weigh in on guns if he wants, but he’s right that it’s ultimately up to lawmakers to act. And there’s much they can do.