It never made sense that the right to buy a gun in Florida after a commitment in a mental hospital depended on whether you were forced into the facility by the state or entered voluntarily. Under a new law that took effect Monday, the vast majority of patients, who commit themselves voluntarily, will be treated like those committed under the Baker Act and will be barred from future firearm purchases. Gov. Rick Scott and Florida's gun rights advocates are to be commended for embracing this smart change despite strong opposition from out-of-state guns rights groups.
Compared to other gun regulation bills filed in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, HB 1355 was a modest reform, reflecting the sensibility of most Americans who believe the mentally ill should not be able to buy firearms. It was the only gun control measure that won approval from the Republican-led Legislature and the backing of Marion Hammer, founder of United Sportsmen of Florida and former president of the National Rifle Association. Mental health advocates also supported the bill, noting its biggest impact will likely be a reduction in suicides, not crime. Those caught in this net do have an eventual out, if they become stable. They can petition the court to have the ban on buying guns lifted.
"Reasonable parameters on firearm purchases must be set forth in state law to ensure public safety," Scott noted last week. Well said.