Gov. Rick Scott defended his support for the Second Amendment as he signed a narrowly-focused firearms bill into law Friday, making it harder for the mentally ill to buy guns.
The measure, which has gotten caught in a cross-fire among gun rights groups, was one of 46 bills signed into law on Friday. The bill (HB 1355) blocks firearms purchases by some people who voluntarily admit themselves for mental-health treatment.
In a letter accompanying the bill signing, Scott noted that the measure was the product of mental health and second amendment advocates, while he also highlighted his history of support for gun rights.
“During the 2012 GOP Convention, I was asked to issue a temporary executive order to override laws that allow people to carry concealed weapons, which I denied because it was unclear how disarming law-abiding citizens would better protect them from the damages and threats posed by those who would flout the law,” Scott wrote. “Additionally, I’ve signed legislation protecting the privacy of firearm owners and stopping local governments from overreaching in the regulation of firearms.”
For a governor who has struggled with approval rating, how the move will play with thousands of individuals who have sent in opposition to the law remains to be seen.
The bill was crafted in the wake of 20 children and six adults being gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
A Rasmussen poll released on Dec. 19, 2012, the week after the shooting, found 48 percent of Americans believed more action to treat mental health issues would do the most to prevent such shootings, with 27 percent saying stricter gun control laws would do the most.
The bill, backed by the National Rifle Association and Unified Sportsmen of Florida, moved through the Legislature with little opposition. Only one legislator voted against the proposal.
“Gov. Scott obviously understands, and has read, the bill,” Marion Hammer, the lobbyist for the NRA and Unified Sportsmen, told the Tampa Bay Times. “The bill will prevent dangerous people with mental illness from being able to buy guns. Everyone should support that, and thank the governor for caring.”
The public opposition came through the efforts of two out-of-state groups, the Colorado-based National Association for Gun Rights and the Gun Owners of America.
“Gov. Scott has shown his disregard for law abiding gun owners and their second amendment rights by signing this bill,” Danielle Thompson, press secretary for the National Association for Gun Rights, said after the bill was signed.
She added the signing may “overshadow” Scott’s prior actions in support of gun rights, but was unsure how this could impact his 2014 re-election.
“It depends upon what initiatives come next,” she said.
A number of people urging a veto of HB 1355 have already also questioned Scott’s conservative credentials due to his suspension of Liberty County Sheriff Nick Finch. FDLE investigators said the sheriff destroyed documents tied to the arrest of a man charged with illegally carrying a concealed firearm.
Other critics of the new law, which goes into effect Monday, have said it will discourage people with mental illnesses from seeking treatment.
“I believe it will, if it becomes law, actually discourage people from seeking psychological/psychiatric treatment,” wrote Edward Robbeloth of Fort Walton Beach to Scott on Friday.
Even after the NRA’s Hammer, one of the best-known gun-rights advocates in the country, requested members voice their support for the bill, the impassioned pleas for a veto continued to dominate the comments on the issue that have come into Scott’s state “Sunburst” email inbox since the end of the regular session.
A number of those who wanted the measure vetoed said they may have a hard time voting again for Scott.
“I’m very concerned that the government is getting too involved in everything we do in life and that is our right as a US citizen!!!” Lucille Ewing of Davie wrote on Friday.
–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida