DeSantis Aims To Target Gun "Lunatics", Not Guns
Authored by Jannis Falkenstern via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
Gov. Ron DeSantis said he wants to focus on gun “lunatics” rather than targeting Second Amendment rights when it comes to preventing mass shootings.
“When you’re dealing with [gun-related crime] … you focus on the criminal,” he said at a June 8 press conference.
“You focus on the lunatic—you don’t kneecap the rights of law-abiding citizens.”
Mental health issues notwithstanding, some shooters are just “really bad people … who are doing things, targeting kids, targeting innocent people,” the governor said.
During the question-and-answer session, DeSantis was asked about the closing in 2002 of a large mental hospital that held people who were deemed a threat to society.
While DeSantis did not call for a return of that type of institution, he seemed to question the decision of then Gov. Jeb Bush to close G. Pierce Wood (GPW), a mental health facility located in Southwest Florida.
“I mean, honestly, they used to have people [who] would go to these insane asylums—these are folks that couldn’t function in society,” he said. “They were a danger to the community, and they were basically committed. We’ve kind of deinstitutionalized that now, so you really need to have a concerted effort to be able to have interventions to identify some of the people who are not safe to be around the community.”
In 1947 the Florida legislature recognized a need for mental health facilities and voted to build a large complex in DeSoto County that would accommodate long-term mental health patients. It was named after a legislator who advocated for the mentally ill, G. Pierce Wood, Sr. It was a 500-acre property that accepted patients from 17 counties across the state. The property included staff housing, a patient ward, and buildings for occupational training and recreation.
In 2014, then Gov. Rick Scott, along with members of the Florida Cabinet, voted to sell the property to Power Auto Corporation for $2.5 million with plans to use it for car-racing training. That plan was put on hold and the facility remains empty except for a small helicopter repair business.
The governor went on to say that mental health “spans a variety of things,” and that traditional mental health is “people going through normal things in life.”
“Most people who need mental health services [are] not a danger to the community,” DeSantis said. “But you do have some people that are just really just off their rocker and you need an intervention when you have that.”
Some, however, are just bad people, he said.
“They are not dumb, because they pick their targets and they know. The Buffalo guy said he wanted to go where he knew there wouldn’t be blow-back from people being armed, and so he tried to find a gun-free zone,” he said referring to the gunman who murdered 10 people at a grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y., in May.
The governor issued a warning to would-be shooters: “If you’re one of these nut jobs, just know: If you try that … it’s not going to end up being pretty, and you’re not going to walk out of there alive.”
In recognition of the importance of mental health issues, DeSantis has allotted a significant amount in the 2022-2023 budget to address them, Christina Pushaw, the governor’s press secretary, told the Epoch Times in an email.
“The need for behavioral health services is increasing across the state. The Freedom First Budget provides nearly $294 million in funding for community-based behavioral health services, forensic bed capacity, and operations of the state mental health treatment facilities,” Pushaw wrote. “Additionally, this funding will provide a comprehensive array of behavioral health treatment services that seek to reduce overdoses, suicides, and unemployment and help break the cycle of hospitalization and homelessness.”
During the press conference, the U.S. House voted to raise the age of purchasing a semiautomatic rifle from the age of 18 to the age of 21, which Florida has already passed. The House version of the gun law sought a number of measures, including closing a loophole allowing bump stocks, which allow semiautomatic weapons to simulate a fully automatic weapon. Senate negotiations were already underway when Congress voted on the bill.
Florida Democratic legislators are working to call a special session to address guns but say they are not attempting to ban the AR-15-assault-type weapon that was used in the Uvalde school shooting and elsewhere but instead want to restrict high-capacity rifle magazines, universal criminal background checks for all firearms and expand Red Flag laws used to seize firearms from people who pose a serious threat to themselves or others.
he current Red Flag laws, or the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act of 2018, included a measure allowing law enforcement to seize firearms from people who the court deems “pose a serious threat” to themselves or others. According to a legislative analysis, the bill intended to temporarily prevent those experiencing a significant mental health crisis from obtaining firearms until that person can “reasonably prove” they are no longer a threat. The analysis went on to say that the law attempts to balance “the rights of the person (respondent) including due process of law, and reducing death or injury as a result of his or her use of firearms during a mental health crisis.”
According to the Florida Department of State, the Florida constitution requires three-fifths of lawmakers in each of the chambers, the House and the Senate must agree to such a session. The Secretary of State, Cord Byrd, launched a poll to all legislators on June 7 that ends at 3 p.m. on June 10. The poll question asked: “Should a special session of the Florida Legislature be convened for the purpose of considering proposals to address gun violence?”
On June 7, DeSantis signed HB 1421, which made small changes to the 2018 law, such as requiring law enforcement to be present on school campuses during an active shooter drill, school resource officers to complete mental health crisis intervention training and school districts as well as public charter school to create family reunification plans when schools are closed or unexpectedly evacuated.
The governor said he recognized after the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school, failures were made by both law enforcement and the school as there were signs that the shooter was dangerous.
“The failures of both law enforcement and the school system I think were really, really difficult,” he said of the 2018 shooting. “When something could have been prevented by holding this guy accountable when you had all these different opportunities to do it and you don’t … that’s a problem.”
“So, they do analyze it like that, but they have something that’s wrong with them that would cause them to do it; and most of the time, there will be signals…”