In a bustling Tampa courtroom, a lawyer is making the case for keeping guns out of the hands of a man named Anthony Ballard.
Judge Ron Ficarrotta flips through court paperwork and reads the alarming details: How a friend said Ballard, 30, showed him a violent and graphic video of a gunman shooting down patrons in a bank.
Ballard told his friend: “This will be me one day. I’m gonna be the greatest mass shooter. I’m gonna shoot the most people ever and be famous for it.”
The file recounts how deputies tracked Ballard down and how he begged them to shoot him. They took him into custody under Florida’s Baker Act, which allows someone who appears to be a danger to himself or others to be held and evaluated. As they did, Ballard talked about the massacre in March at two mosques in New Zealand. He referred to the shooter as “his people.”
In court, Marc Makholm, attorney for the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office, sums it up: “There’s no reason for this person to have a firearm.” The judge agrees, signing his name to an order that says Ballard must turn in any guns he owns and not have any others for a year.
Next case: A man accused of threatening to shoot up a Walmart near Tampa the day after a gunman opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso and killed 22 people.
Welcome to Florida’s Risk Protection Court, created last year to take guns from people judged too dangerous to have them.