Key differences, similarities between ‘red flag’ gun laws in Minnesota, Florida

Key differences, similarities between ‘red flag’ gun laws in Minnesota, Florida

Key differences, similarities between ‘red flag’ gun laws in Minnesota, Florida

The man involved in a racially motivated shooting in Jacksonville, Florida, over the weekend legally bought guns despite a 2017 involuntary mental health evaluation. Ryan Christopher Palmeter, 21, killed three Black people before killing himself at a Dollar General.

“He did have a Baker Act petition from 2017,” Duval County Sheriff T.K. Waters said on Sunday. “This petition occurred in Clay County and it appears the shooter was held for 72 hours under the Baker Act provisions and then released without further involuntary commitment.”

The Baker Act is a Florida state law that allows for the involuntary and voluntary placement of an individual in a psychiatric facility for observation and a psychiatric evaluation and generally, under Florida’s “red flag” law, means the person can’t legally buy firearms. However, that’s only if a court rules the person is deemed a danger to him or herself and should be committed. Palmeter was not ordered by a court to be held after his 72-hour evaluation.

RELATED: KSTP-TV/SurveyUSA poll: Minnesotans back gun safety legislation by wide margins

“I think our ‘red flag’ law will have a better chance to stop something like this,” says Rep. Cedrick Frazier, DFL-New Hope.

Frazier says Minnesota’s law is similar to Florida’s in that a court action is needed for someone to be deemed mentally unfit to buy a gun. However, Minnesota’s law that takes effect next year goes further than Florida by mandating mental health professionals notify law enforcement if they’re concerned a client might be a danger to themselves or others. The Minnesota law also allows family members to get more involved.

“The parents, family members have the ability to go directly to the courts to make the petition,” Frazier says. “My understanding is that’s not the case in Florida.”

Frazier cautions that no “red flag” law will stop every shooting.  

“This is a law put in place to save as many lives as possible knowing that we don’t have a perfect solution to anything yet, so there’s always a chance we’re not going to save or solve every issue that may come up,” Frazier said.

Minnesota’s “extreme protection” law goes into effect Jan. 1. Florida passed its “red flag” law in 2018 after mass shootings at a nightclub in Orlando and a high school in Parkland.