Bill of Rights

Congress Passes Gun Legislation – President Biden Signs It Into Law. How Does It Impact Florida Residents?

Updated June 25, 2022

President Biden signed the Safe Communities Act into law just before 9:00 am on Saturday, June 25, 2022. This Bipartisan Gun Control act is now law.

Congress passes gun legislation the day after the United States Supreme Court released a landmark decision expanding firearms rights for all Americans. Congress passed the Bipartisan Safe Communities Act (BSCA). This Act was signed into law within 24 hours of passing Congress. This Act, among other things, creates incentives for states to adopt Red Flag Laws, requires expanded background checks for firearms transfers to those under 21 years of age, and expands the definition of “domestic violence.” Thus expanding the ways a person can lose their firearm rights. The Act also creates funding for a variety of school programs with the goal of assessing student mental health and providing training to identify students with mental health concerns.

Risk Protection Orders

The BSCA creates funding for states which adopt “extreme risk protection order programs.” These Risk Protection Orders (RPO) are used to prohibit people from possessing firearms or ammunition if they are found to be “significant dangers” to themselves or others. The Act mandates due process. However, while there is a right to representation, states are not required to provide counsel. Florida already has Red Flag Laws as a result of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Act, passed in March, 2018. As a result, this portion of the Act will likely have little impact on Floridians.

Increased Background Checks for Those Under 21

Many states permit the purchase of firearms by those under 21 but over 18 years old. All background checks requested by FFLs for those under 21 shall now require the background system to contact the criminal history repository or juvenile justice information system in their state of residence, the “appropriate State custodian of mental health adjudication records,” and a local law enforcement agency in that person’s jurisdiction to check for disqualifying juvenile records. This new system requires the licensee to be provided with a preliminary response within 3 business days. In any case, the licensee must be given a final response in no more than 10 days as to whether the person may possess a firearm. The age to purchase any type of firearm in Florida is 21. Therefore, this section of the Act will also have little to no current impact on Floridians.

Redefining Domestic Violence in the new gun legislation.

The BSCA changes the definition of domestic violence so it will include those who commit a battery against someone with whom they have a current or recent former dating relationship. Prior to this Act, a person would not automatically be charged with a crime of domestic violence if the offense was against a person they were only dating at the time. A court will consider the length and nature of the relationship, and will not consider a “casual acquaintance or ordinary fraternization” to be a “dating relationship.” Under Federal and Florida law, a person convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence may not possess a firearm. This section of the Act may have a serious impact on the gun rights of many people in Florida. It is important to note that the new definition does not apply retroactively. This means that the change in the definition will not be applied to charges which were committed before the Act was passed.

Other Impacts of the new gun legislation

As discussed above, the Act creates new mental health services for students. It seeks to provide funding for programs which seek to help students struggling with mental health issues. This legislation seeks to create an environment where those with mental health issues can receive treatment and be identified prior to engaging in a mass shooting incident. The bill also provides funding for after-school programs and summer programs, which have allegedly been shown to reduce violent incidents. The bill also gives prosecutors new tools to prosecute gun traffickers and clarifies the law as to who needs to have a Federal Firearms license to engage in the business of buying and selling firearms.

This article is based on our preliminary assessment of the new gun legislation passed by Congress as we have time to dig deeper into it, we will update this article.

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