Two weeks ago, 17 people, mostly teenagers, were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. There were warning signs, and one of them was an online posting under the shooter’s name that said, “I'm going to be a professional school shooter” on a YouTube video.
These types of threats can be a critical indicator that intervention is necessary. However, under current law, they are not illegal. People can post online the time and location of a planned mass shooting and cannot be prosecuted.
In 2014, a Sarasota teen posted on Twitter, “Can’t wait to shoot up my school,” and, “It’s time. School getting shot up on Tuesday,” with a photo of a gun being placed in his backpack. In 2016, an appellate court found there was not enough evidence to prosecute him.
Shockingly, it is not illegal to threaten mass shootings. Senate Bill 310 would change that.
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SB 310 will allow law enforcement to act on a broader range of threats, including those made on social media. The bill makes it a third-degree felony to create and send certain written threats — including electronic communications — to kill or do great bodily injury.
There is a misconception that a law like this is already on the books and that law enforcement can assess, and take action, on threats made online. Law enforcement cannot act on non-specific threats made through digital platforms. The warning signs aren’t missed; we just don’t have the tools needed to act on them.
It is critical that we pass SB 310. Gov. Rick Scott has made it a priority to enhance criminal penalties for threats to schools, including those made through social media. This bill allows law enforcement to do their job and act on the warning signs. Now is the time to act.
Florida Police Chiefs