Florida Sen. Travis Hutson (File photo)

Posting online threats about school shootings could get you 15 years in prison

Sen Travis Hutson warns locals about a new law creating tougher penalties for school threats.
By: 
Mar. 27, 2018

By Travis Hutson, guest writer

As your elected representative in the Florida Senate, I wanted to make sure everyone was well aware of the new law making online mass shooting threats a 2nd degree felony. I take the safety of every Floridian seriously, and the Florida Legislature has taken protecting our schools very seriously. I support these tough measures to protect our kids, but it is important that the word is spread to parents and students of this new reality.

The unspeakable tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas has each and every one of us demanding answers and real solutions. From government failure to the growing mental health crisis, one thing has become clear: we must act now to keep our schools safe. After weeks of talking with those on the front lines in education, law enforcement, our court system, and mental health experts, the Florida Legislature passed and Governor Rick Scott signed into law the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Safety Act, a comprehensive plan to address mental health issues and implement safety measures to protect our students. This plan, inspired by the hundreds of students, parents, and teachers we heard from, improves communication to ensure red flags are never missed again, hardens our schools, and increases security. This plan provides meaningful mental health screening, training, and counseling.

While parts of the new law may go a step too far for some while at the same time being just a first step for others, there is a portion of the law that may have flown under the radar during conversations of gun control and school safety that I believe parents and students of Senate District 7 should fully be aware of. It is now a 2nd degree felony for any person to make, post, or transmit a threat in a writing or other record, including an electronic record, to conduct a mass shooting or an act of terrorism, in any manner that would allow another person to view the threat. A felony conviction of the 2nd degree carries maximums of a $10,000 fine and 15 years in prison, not to mention the loss of various rights due to a felony conviction including the loss of voting rights and the ability to serve in the military. 

The law encompasses electronic communications including but not limited to Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. While people may use these platforms casually, the law now takes mass shooting threats made on them very seriously. Obviously, we still have due process in Florida, but the stakes involved with what you post are very high. I encourage parents to talk to your children about the new law and how even a "joke" post or text could have life altering consequences.

Sen. Travis Hutson represents Florida Senate District 7, which includes Flagler County.