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DeSantis calls for institutionalizing more people instead of nationalizing Florida’s red flag law in wake of Maine shooting

By Steve Contorno and Kit Maher, CNN

(CNN) — Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday evening that he is not sure if Florida’s red flag law is effective in removing guns from dangerous people and he wouldn’t sign one – or any gun safety measure – if elected president.

Instead, in response to Wednesday’s mass shooting at a bowling alley and a restaurant in Lewiston, Maine, that has left at least 18 dead, the Republican presidential candidate said he would institutionalize more people with mental health issues against their will.

“I think what’s ultimately effective is holding people accountable, either through mental adjudication if they’re crazy or convicting them when they’re committing crimes,” DeSantis told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on “The Source.”

An intensive manhunt is still underway for the suspect in the shooting, who police said recently reported mental health issues and was reported to have been committed to a mental health facility for two weeks over the summer.

In Florida, law enforcement agencies can advocate for judges to temporarily bar dangerous individuals from possessing or purchasing a firearm through a provision known as a “red flag” law. From its inception following the Parkland high school massacre in 2018 through mid-2022, it was invoked more than 8,000 times to restrict gun ownership of people authorities deemed a risk to themselves or others. The law is supported by many Florida sheriffs.

DeSantis said he didn’t think Florida’s law – which allows judges to ban or remove firearms from someone experiencing a mental health crisis – would have made a difference if it was in place in Maine.

“In this case, I’m not sure,” he said. “I think an involuntary commitment, though, would have kept him off the street, and I think that would have done the trick.”

Though DeSantis opposed the law when he ran for governor in 2018, it has remained in place throughout his five years in office. DeSantis, who has successfully pushed many contentious priorities through the Republican-controlled state legislature, blamed lawmakers in his state for keeping it on the books.

“There’s not an appetite amongst them to reverse their vote,” he said.

Former President Donald Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination and DeSantis’ chief rival, previously called to institutionalize more people after the Parkland massacre.

DeSantis similarly said the country has “gotten a little bit more liberal” and the pendulum should swing back toward institutionalizing more people.

“Part of the problem is, we used to have mental institutions,” Trump said then.

Prior to Wednesday’s shooting, DeSantis on the campaign trail had touted his record on gun rights, saying he would reverse actions taken by the Trump and Biden administrations to restrict certain firearm accessories.

In response to Collins asking if there were any gun control measures he could support if elected president, DeSantis replied: “Restricting Second Amendment rights? I’m gonna uphold the Constitution.”

DeSantis on Thursday chalked up Trump’s success in the polls to name recognition.

“He’s the most famous person running. One hundred percent name I.D. He’s the person people know,” DeSantis said. “When you actually drill down in these early states, clearly, he’s got some that will vote for him no matter what, but there’s a lot more that aren’t going to vote for him in the primary. Then, you’ve got a lot of voters, who, they liked his policies, they liked a lot about him, they are willing to vote for somebody else.”

“It’s incumbent upon a guy like me, go out and make the case,” he said.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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