What Is A “Red Flag” Law? Florida Wants To Keep Guns From The Parkland Shooter’s Brother

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On Monday, the little brother of the man who killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was arrested for trespassing on the grounds of that campus. Now attorneys in Florida are intervening to stop him from possessing guns in case he has violent intentions like his brother. The measure they're using is sometimes called a "red flag" law, which Florida passed after the Parkland shooting to increase the state's power to take weapons away from people deemed to be mentally unfit to possess them.

Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill, which also increased the minimum age for purchasing firearms in Florida from 18 to 21, on March 9. One of its key provisions involves "risk protection orders" (RPOs), also known as "red flags," that allow law enforcement officers to request court orders to prevent at-risk individuals from owning guns. The law lets officers petition for one of these orders if they believe "that a person poses a danger to themselves or others by possessing a firearm," according to a statement from the governor's office.

The law built upon existing risk protection law in Florida's Baker Act, by which people can seek temporary detention and medical treatment for family members who seem at risk of harming themselves or others.

The bill — which included those "red flag" provisions, the minimum age increase, a bump stock ban, a three-day waiting period for purchasing firearms, and a program for arming certain teachers — easily passed Florida's state legislature. It was approved in the Senate with 20-18 votes and in the House by 67-50. Now it might be put to action under circumstances that are more directly related to the Parkland massacre than many might've expected.

The 18-year-old trespassed at Stoneman Douglas on Monday — somehow getting around locked doors and other security — and rode his skateboard around campus. He was quickly arrested there and told police that he had intended to "reflect on the school shooting and to soak it in."

A judge commanded that the teen be psychologically evaluated. The next day, Florida prosecutors filed for a "red flag" order that would take away any guns currently in his possession and prevent him from buying new ones.

"If the RPO is granted," said the Broward Sheriff's Office, it will stop the teen "from possessing and acquiring firearms for a period of time to be determined by the court." A judge will soon decide whether or not to grant the RPO.

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Law enforcement officers evidently fear that the Parkland shooter's brother is at risk of harming others or himself; according to a Broward County police report, he was having suicidal thoughts shortly after the massacre. The memo notes that he "does feel somewhat responsible and guilty about [the Parkland attack] and that he could have possibly prevented this." The teen apparently used to bully his older brother.

Meanwhile, two Florida Senators introduced a piece of federal legislation on Thursday that would give states Justice Department grants to create laws that parallel Florida's new "red flag" provisions. Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bill Nelson are sponsoring the bill, which is titled the "Extreme Risk Protection Order and Violence Prevention Act." Rubio claims that the law would have enabled law enforcement to actually intervene and disarm the Parkland gunman when they received tips about his troubling behavior for many years prior to the shooting.

"If a 'red flag' law like this existed before February 14," Rubio said, "instead of just calling the FBI hotline, someone close to the Parkland shooter could have gotten a court order to take away his guns before he took 17 lives."