Frost to DeSantis: Why didn’t Florida take anti-gun violence money from feds?
U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost of Orlando is asking Gov. Ron DeSantis why the state never asked for federal funds that could be used to enforce the state’s red flag law that’s designed to prevent gun violence.
In a letter signed by all eight Democratic members of Congress from Florida, Frost told DeSantis they were “disturbed by your administration’s failure” to apply for some of the $231 million in funds made available through the Byrne State Crisis Intervention Program.
Florida was one of just five states and territories that didn’t receive funding, even though the Department of Justice estimated it would have gotten more than $15 million.
The program, part of the Safer Communities Act passed in 2022, provides money to states to pay for things like enforcing the Florida law that allows law enforcement to temporarily seize guns from people suspected of being a danger to themselves or others.
“In the last decade, 9,229 Floridians were killed by someone using a firearm,” Frost wrote. “In 2022 alone, 1,130 Floridians were killed by someone using a firearm. This is not acceptable.”
Those statistics “are real people, each leaving behind a traumatized and grieving community of loved ones,” Frost wrote. “Leaving money on the table that can save the lives of Floridians is a significant step backward in ending this senseless violence.”
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement evaluated the grant but determined it was not able to meet the December application deadline because of “complex compliance requirements” including the creation of a Crisis Intervention Advisory Board, FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said Tuesday.
The Office of the State Courts also decided not to pursue the money.
The grant program doesn’t require the state to match any dollars. The money could also be used to train law enforcement and court officials and conduct public education campaigns.
The state’s red flag law, passed after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in 2018 that killed 17, allows law enforcement to ask for a risk protection order, against someone who poses a danger to themselves or others.
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“Florida’s law establishing RPOs was an important first step, but the recent February 2023 shooting [in Orlando] that took the lives of a 9-year-old child, her mother, and a reporter shows us that more must be done,” Frost wrote.
That February shooting in Pine Hills also wounded the 9-year-old’s mother and a second member of the Spectrum News 13 crew. Three people, including a 13-year-old and a 7-year-old, were also killed in a shooting in the Parramore section of Orlando on Easter Sunday.
Frost’s letter asks DeSantis why the state failed to apply for funds, whether it will request the Department of Justice reopen the process, and whether it will commit to applying if and when that happens.
The letter cites a similar process through which Indiana and Nebraska were allowed to apply in April past the initial deadline.
The governor’s office referred comment on the decision not to apply for the funds to the FDLE.
Frost’s fellow U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, Jared Moskowitz, D-Parkland, Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, D-Miramar, and Frederica S. Wilson, D-Miami, all signed the letter. No Republicans signed.
Frost, a former national organizer at the gun reform group March for Our Lives, filed his first bill this month to create a centralized office on gun violence.