NRA launches email blitz to gain support for bill banning gun purchases to mentally ill
Gun rights activist Marion Hammer, who for decades has fought laws that restrict firearms in Florida, is mounting a campaign to urge Gov. Rick Scott to sign a bill that will ban gun purchases –- for the mentally ill
Hammer, the powerful lobbyist for the National Rifle Association and United Sportsmen of Florida, has started an email “alert” to about 200,000 of the group’s members urging them to “Please email Governor Scott right away and urge him to sign HB-1355.”
The blitz is necessary, she said, to “counteract the barrage of emails” loaded with “patently false” information filling the governor’s “Sunburst” email inbox.
Since the bill’s passage, the governor’s office has received at least 17,008 emails and 2,711 calls in opposition to the bill (as of June 19). Many of the emails are identical, except for names of the senders. Scott has only received a dozen calls and one email in support.
Scott has until July 2 to sign the bill.
Hammer calls many of these negative emails a “gimmick” and a fundraising attempt on the part of a Colorado-based organization called the National Association for Gun Rights and some other groups.
“These are not organizations that are here on the ground, working the issue,” said Hammer, a former NRA president. “They are full of disinformation designed to inflame and upset people and help them raise money.”
In her emails, which she began sending out Wednesday, Hammer writes that “Gun owners are being deceived by reckless people who are sending out email blasts attacking the bill as being anti-Second Amendment.”
Hammer said a recent, “national scientific survey” of NRA members nationwide found that 91 percent support laws to keep guns out of the hands of people with mental illnesses.
The bill, which had bipartisan support, received only one negative vote (Rep. John Tobia, R-Melbourne Beach), during the whole legislative process. It passed 117-1 in the House and 38-0 in the Senate. House sponsor Barbara Watson said "there's no indication the bill won't be signed" by Scott.
Watson, D-Miami Gardens, said she worked on the bill with many diverse interests including Hammer, the FBI, the FDLE and Miami Dade County Court Judge Steve Leifman, chairman of the Florida Supreme Court’s Task Force on Substance Abuse and Mental Health. Senate sponsor is Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville.
Opponents have “a lack of understanding of the bill and what it actually does,” said Watson.
The bill has a limited focus and applies only to people who voluntarily feel they are a danger to themselves or others and admit themselves for treatment under the Baker Act. The state already bans firearm purchases by people who are involuntarily admitted under the Baker Act.
The names of those who voluntarily admit they are a danger to themselves or others would be added to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database that enables retailers to see if a person is prohibited from buying a gun.
A person who is Baker Acted can seek to have gun rights restored if a physician and judge agree the person is no longer a threat to himself or others.
This is the email from NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer:
ALERT ! URGE Governor Scott to SIGN HB-1355
DATE: June 19, 2013
TO: USF & NRA Member and Friends
FROM: Marion P. Hammer
USF Executive Director
NRA Past President
False information is being circulated about HB-1355 by people who don't have a clue what the bill actually does or why it is needed. Gun owners are being deceived by reckless people who are sending out email blasts attacking the bill as being anti-Second Amendment. Unfortunately, well-meaning are reacting based on misinformation when they ask the Governor to veto HB-1355. The Governor needs to sign HB-1355.
The truth is HB-1355 is very limited. 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.
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.
Currently, people being held in a mental health facility under a Baker Act Commitment and who are subsequently determined to a danger to self or others, may voluntarily agree to commitment for treatment to avoid going to court.
If the person doesn't voluntarily agree to treatment, a petition is then filed for a court hearing for involuntary commitment. When a court orders commitment, the person's name is entered into the NICS (National Instant Check System) 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 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. It is like a revolving door. 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 HB-1355, these people may still agree to voluntary commitment for treatment but they would be informed (and must sign a statement acknowledging that they have been 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 already prescribed 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 has the opportunity to 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 the NRA was asked by the Judge who chairs the Florida Supreme Court Task Force on Mental Illness (Judge Steve Leifman) 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 in the House and Senate 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, the head of an organization out of Colorado, 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 meetings with legislators, and who appears to be deliberately misrepresenting the effect of the bill and existing law – has been sending out erroneous, inflammatory information in the form of email blasts encouraging people to send email asking the Governor to veto this bill.
They are essentially telling the Governor and gun owners all over the country that they think it's OK for dangerous people with mental illness to be able to purchase guns. That is irresponsible. Obviously, gullible people who are reacting to those emails and asking the Governor to veto the bill are doing so based on erroneous information.
The NRA and Unified Sportsmen of Florida support the bill. We worked hard to protect the rights of the mentally ill as well as the rights of those who might fall victim to dangerous people with mental illnesses.
All too often the perpetrators of mass tragedies who used guns were known to have mental illness, but nobody did anything. We believe that lives can be saved by keeping dangerous people with mental illnesses from being able to purchase guns.
Please email Governor Scott right away and urge him to sign HB-1355
IN THE SUBJECT LINE PUT: PLEASE SIGN HB-1355