HB 1355 Florida: "Mental Health" Bill Just Another Gun Lobby Distraction


The Florida Senate has dropped a bill onto Governor Rick Scott's desk. If signed by Governor Scott, the legislation will require people who volunteer for mental health treatment and consultation to forgo their Second Amendment rights.

The bills roots are undoubtedly grounded in the vast American plea for stricter background checks to gun sale patrons following 2012's catastrophic gun tragedies. Although the current bill doesn't truly encapsulate what most citizens had hoped for during senatorial gun control debate, the nationwide momentum from such heart-wrenching shocks will make the Republican governor's decision all that much harder to make.

But the bill doesn't quite hit the nail on the head, as most people would see it.

First off, critics accuse the bill, dubbed HB 1355 in its current life state, of creating unreasonable time frames in which doctors are supposed to make life-altering diagnoses. Depending on how swiftly the proposed bill is issued and enacted (Scott is looking at about a two-week time period to make his decision) patients who are currently in voluntary mental illness treatment will have to be abruptly categorized as needing mandatory treatment or as being free from any treatment obligation. 

Second, mental health professionals share a legitimate fear that if the governor signs the bill into law, fewer people will seek mental healthcare treatment. Those who fear being stripped of their constitutional rights will opt out of voluntary psychiatric treatment to hold onto their guns.

And last, the value of the measure is completely undermined by the larger national failure to require universal background checks for all gun-seeking buyers. Effectively, the bill serves as nothing more than a distraction: the truth is that most of the killers who commit gun murders have no documented mental illnesses. In fact, NRA lobbyists and pro-gun senators overtly promoted the bill at a March 28 committee hearing, clairvoyant to the legislation's true hollowness.

The bill also stipulates that once those with mental illnesses have been treated and scrutinized by health officials, they will be able to get their gun rights back.

There are an estimated 100,000 people that would be denied the right to buy a gun, in addition to the already 90,000 Floridians who are denied that right — which, depending on your outlook, can be a positive or negative quip — but the bill completely fails to address the root problem of gun violence in our country. It instead, yet again, cleverly side steps the dilemma and refocuses the people's attention.

Governor Scott is the one who needs to focus now.