A new gun statute has been passed in Florida – and signed into law – as a result of the tragic Valentine’s Day 2018 shootings at a high school near Fort Lauderdale.

You’re about to learn what Floridians should know regarding the new law, Senate Bill 7026. The law includes these six key provisions:

Gun buyers now must wait for a comprehensive background check to be completed, and they must wait at least three days to make a purchase, with very few exceptions.

Firearms purchasers must be age 21 or above to buy a gun now in our state. This part of the law would have kept gunman Nikolas Cruz, 19, from legally buying the firearm he used at the high school on February 14th.

Building security will be enhanced with an additional $98 million set aside to harden facilities and hire more security officers at schools.

Under the new statute, law enforcement officers may seize – temporarily, at least – firearms from individuals who are involuntarily subjected to a competency examination under the Florida Baker Act.

And $69 million has been earmarked for the expansion of mental health and counseling services across the state.

Finally, each Florida county will decide if any school employees should be armed. Legislators have dedicated $67 million for training counselors, librarians, and coaches – but not teachers – to carry a firearm at school.

WHAT ARE THE NEW LAW’S OTHER PROVISIONS?

County school systems that opt out of arming school employees can instead use those resources to hire more security personnel, the governor said.

Persons who’ve been deemed incompetent by a court – as well as persons who’ve been committed – may not now purchase a firearm in this state under the new legislation.

Additionally, law enforcement agencies may – if a judge approves – prevent persons who are deemed a danger to themselves or others from owning a firearm for up to a year.

The National Rifle Association immediately challenged the new law in the federal courts, asserting that the minimum age rule is unconstitutional.

But the governor applauded Florida’s lawmakers for acting rapidly after the tragic February 14th shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Seventeen teachers and students at the school lost their lives that day.

WHAT DO CRITICS SAY ABOUT FLORIDA’S NEW GUN LAW?

Gun control activists, however, insisted that the new Florida gun law is insufficient and that lawmakers should have done much more. Senate Bill 7026 does not:

  • ban assault weapon sales
  • ban high-capacity magazines
  • require new or more comprehensive background checks for gun purchasers

Although federal law requires background checks when firearms are sold by licensed dealers, some private firearm sales still are not subject to a comprehensive background check.

After the February 14th tragedy in Parkland, high schoolers in a number of states expressed solidarity with and support for the survivors, who are still active in reforming gun laws here in the state of Florida and across the nation.

Whether you support or oppose more gun control or less, or even if you do not really take a side, if you live in the state of Florida, you need to know about the gun laws.

WHERE CAN YOU TURN IF YOU’RE CHARGED WITH A FIREARMS VIOLATION?

And if you’re charged with a gun crime or a firearms violation in the Stuart area – or anywhere in central or south Florida – you will need the sound legal advice and quality representation that an experienced Stuart criminal defense attorney can provide.

Florida’s gun statutes – the older laws as well as the new one – are quite technical and complicated. Anyone handling a firearm could be confused easily and wind up being charged with a crime.

Firearms crimes in this state are penalized upon conviction with time behind bars, fines, probation, or a combination of those penalties. A convicted firearms offender’s right to possess a firearm will also be restricted.

If you hold a professional license, a firearms conviction will put it at risk. If you are a security or law enforcement professional, you may have to look for other employment.

WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMONLY-CHARGED GUN CRIMES IN OUR STATE?

Florida’s leading firearms crimes are:

Carrying a concealed firearm: With only narrow exceptions, this is a third-degree felony in Florida. The penalties for a conviction can include a $5,000 fine, probation, and a possible five years in prison.

Allowing a minor under age 16 access to a loaded firearm is punishable upon conviction by a fine of $500 and a jail term of sixty days.

Improperly exhibiting or brandishing a dangerous weapon or firearm is a misdemeanor in the first degree, punishable upon conviction with probation, one year in jail, and a fine of $1,000.

Discharging or possessing a weapon at a school-sponsored event is a felony in the third degree punishable upon conviction by probation, a possible five years in prison, and a fine of $5,000.

HOW DOES THE “10-20-LIFE” LAW WORK?

Florida’s “10-20-Life” rule applies if a crime is committed with a firearm. Here’s how the rule works:

  • When a firearm is used in a crime of violence, a conviction means at least ten years in prison.
  • When a firearm is discharged during a crime of violence, a conviction means at least twenty years in prison.
  • When a person is wounded or killed during a crime of violence, a conviction means twenty-five years to life in prison.

The shooting on Valentine’s Day was an immeasurable tragedy, but it was also a reminder of the less-publicized gun violence that Florida’s law enforcement officers face and deal with every day.

WHAT IF YOU ARE WRONGLY CHARGED WITH A FIREARMS VIOLATION?

While the state’s firearm laws reduce gun violence in Florida and punish its perpetrators, sometimes the innocent are accused. If that happens to you, you must seek legal help at once.

In the Stuart area and throughout central and south Florida, if you are charged with a firearms violation, politely insist on your rights – the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney.

You’ll need the help that an experienced Stuart criminal defense attorney can offer.

Because Florida’s gun statutes are technical and complicated, some persons have been wrongly charged in the past simply because of a paperwork error or a misunderstanding.

If you are formally charged with a firearms violation in this state, depending on the details, your freedom and future could genuinely be at risk, so it is absolutely imperative to secure – immediately – the legal help that you’re going to need.