MSD Safety Commission, Legislators Seek Law Covering Verbal Shooting Threats

(AP Photo/Allen G. Breed, File)

Under current Florida law, a deranged person can tell people about a plan to commit a mass shooting and not be arrested, if the threat is not written down.

However, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission, which is reviewing ways to improve school safety after last year’s Parkland shooting, has joined with Republican State Representative Ralph Massullo, as they seek to change that policy.

They want a mass shooting threat, whether it is written or spoken, to be a second-degree felony.

The existing law makes it a crime in Florida to write or compose “a threat to kill or to do bodily injury to the person to whom the communication is sent.”

Another law, which is designed to outlaw bomb threats, makes it a crime to threaten in writing or verbally, to “throw, project, place, or discharge any destructive device.”

Verbal threats to kill people with firearms are not addressed in Florida law at this time.

A draft report from the Commission states, “If someone calls a bank today and tells the bank employee that he is going to ‘blow up the bank,’ that is a crime. If someone calls the same bank and says he is going ‘shoot up’ the bank, that is not a crime.”

State Representative Massullo, from Lecanto, filed a bill last week that would modify the bomb threat law to address firearms as well. He says, “We don’t want to infringe on people’s First Amendment rights and that can be tricky, so we’re crafting the legislation around a statute we already have in place.”

Massullo adds that several senators have also expressed interest in filing a companion bill, and the Florida Sheriffs Association is supporting the bill.

The recommendation will be submitted to Governor Ron DeSantis and the Legislature in early November.