Gun owners push Scott to veto mental health bill backed by NRA
More than 4,000 people emailed Gov. Rick Scott on Friday, telling him to veto the only gun bill that passed through the Florida Legislature this year.
The bill, HB 1355, aims to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, and received the blessing of the National Rifle Association. It passed the Senate unanimously and passed the House on a 117-1 vote.
Gun owners--who have sent Scott more than 20,000 emails in the last two weeks opposing any new gun legislation—are urging Scott to use his veto pen on HB 1355.
“I am opposed to any expansion of gun control, of any kind,” wrote Douglas Elliot, of Polk County. “Mayor (Michael) Bloomberg is bent on disarming every American in this country. I am an American citizen and am a responsible owner.”
The bill would close a loophole in Florida law that allows people who voluntarily commit themselves to a mental institution to buy a gun once they leave. People who are involuntarily committed under the state’s “Baker Act” laws are currently prohibited from buying firearms.
Most people who are committed into mental institutions in Florida do so voluntarily. Officials from the National Rifle Association worked with a Miami Gardens Democrat, Rep. Barbara Watson, to try and close the loophole.
Watson’s bill was one of more than a dozen gun control laws proposed by Florida Democrats this year, the first session after the mass shooting of 20 children and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut. Other than HB 1355, none of the bills received a hearing in Florida’s firearm-friendly Legislature.
However, for the first time in several years, the Legislature did not pass any controversial bills to expand gun rights—perhaps a side effect of the national firestorm over gun crime.
With the NRA supporting HB 1355, it’s unclear who is organizing opposition against the proposal. Groups like Gun Owners of America have been known to be even more aggressive defenders of gun rights than the NRA. Many of the writers emailing Scott simply said they were opposed to any new gun laws. Others said they believed the mental health law would ensnare people who are law-abiding citizens and not mentally unstable.
In January, after the Newtown shootings, Scott said he wanted the Legislature to “look back at our laws.”
That statement also led to an influx of emails from gun owners who opposed new gun control.
The next day, Scott clarified his position.
"Governor Scott supports the second amendment and is not proposing any gun law changes," a spokesperson said in a Jan. 17 statement.
Scott’s office did immediately not say whether the governor would sign or veto HB 1355.