Following airport shooting, Florida governor says mentally ill should not have guns

Nearly a week after a gunman who told relatives and authorities he heard voices in his head opened fire at the Fort Lauderdale airport, Gov. Rick Scott expressed support for keeping guns away from people with mental illness.

But Scott added a qualification — a legal pronouncement on instability.

“I think one thing we have to think about is if someone is adjudicated mentally ill, it just doesn’t make any sense that they should have access to a gun,” Scott said at a press conference Thursday in Fort Lauderdale in response to a question about increasing airport security in the wake of the shooting.

Scott’s comments echoed previous statements by Broward Sheriff Scott Israel that people with mental illness should not be allowed to purchase or keep firearms. The suspected gunman in the Fort Lauderdale shooting, Esteban Santiago, was hospitalized for a psychiatric evaluation in November after he walked into an FBI field office in Alaska and said the government was controlling his mind. Police there seized a gun in Santiago’s car, but later returned it to him.

Florida already has a law in place to keep guns out of the hands of certain people with mental illness. Passed in 2013 and signed by Scott, the law prohibits people who voluntarily commit themselves to a mental institution under the state’s Baker Act from purchasing a weapon from gun retailers while they are deemed a danger to themselves or others. But the law does not apply to people who already own guns.

Scott said it was still too early to discuss additional security measures that could prevent a similar tragedy in the future. “I think the first thing we need is to really finish understanding exactly what happened and then try to figure out if there’s something that we can improve,” he said.