Governor DeSantis Press Briefing in West Boca

By: Benjamin Schiller

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis hosted a press briefing inside of the Home Depot in West Boca Raton on Friday. DeSantis spoke about hurricane preparations in the state and updates surrounding COVID-19.

During the approximately 40-minute press briefing, DeSantis announced that Home Depot and Publix would be opening three coronavirus testing sites each in the parking lots of their stores across the state. The Home Depot on Glades Road and 441 opened their station on Friday.

Photos by Benjamin Schiller

DeSantis said, “We’ve been able to do 10,000 tests a day at the drive-thru testing sites across the state.” The governor also added that everyone who needs a test could get one, either at a drive-thru testing site or a walk-up testing location.

As of this morning, DeSantis said more than 100,000 people in long-term care facilities had received a test, ranging from staff to residents. The governor also mentioned that “Florida has more deaths in the 90-plus years of age bracket compared to the 65-year-old and younger age bracket” due to COVID-19.

Governor DeSantis hosted his press briefing inside of the West Boca Home Depot to inform the South Florida community of an above-normal hurricane season beginning on June 1st. The governor praised the idea of going to local hardware stores until June 6th to pick up supplies during the tax-free holiday week for disaster preparedness supplies.

DeSantis welcomed Director Jared Moskowitz of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Aronberg, and Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer to address the media for a total of ten minutes.

After the local leaders spoke, Governor DeSantis opened the floor for questions. One reporter asked the governor about the contact tracing of coronavirus. Governor DeSantis mentioned that the Florida Department of Health has done a “sufficient” job, but said, “contract tracing doesn’t do it all” due to the number of people who may be asymptomatic to the virus.

Following the back and forth between the media and the governor, DeSantis said he is optimistic that the SpaceX launch will take place on Saturday at 3:22 P.M. and plans to attend with President Donald Trump. DeSantis also said he is excited for the Walt Disney Resort in Orlando to host the remainder of the NBA season.

The first-term governor said that Florida would be ready to host the Republican National Committee’s Convention in late August if asked by President Trump to do so. DeSantis cited President Trump’s frustrations at North Carolina for not committing to have a full arena for the convention due to COVID-19 concerns. Governor DeSantis expects an answer from the president within the next week.

Desantis thanked Home Depot for their support and the gift of a special apron at the end of the briefing. As DeSantis walked outside to his motorcade, he was greeted with a mixture of cheers and boos from employees and shoppers.

Home Depot notified local stores across South Florida last night of the governor’s press briefing. Most employees in the store for the press conference were managers and long-time staff members of Palm Beach County and Broward County stores. One employee said it took them “several hours” to set-up the backdrop of the briefing with hurricane supplies and close-off store isles.

The store remained open for the general public, despite Governor DeSantis speaking inside of the entrance closer to the garden section of the store. Approximately 25 members of the press were located inside of the designated press pool, with more than 50 people, consisting of shoppers and store employees, gathered outside of the small space.

Everyone in the store wore a mask and was given a complimentary squirt of hand sanitizer.

Red Flag Laws Are Racist and Unnecessary

Red flag gun control cases are being applied in a racist manner here in Palm Beach County. We looked at how the new law is working and found racism and some other problems. As a side note we noticed that one case involved the son of a prominent local doctor harassing a family member of a famous athlete.

See our previous article – Problems with Red Flag Laws

The “red flag” law in Florida is titled Risk Protection Orders. Sheriff Rick Bradshaw recently claimed the law is working. But for whom?

We looked at the twenty most recent “risk protection” cases. Eighteen of the people targeted were white. Only two were black.

There have been a total of 54 risk protection petitions filed in Palm Beach County.

This is a county where 50% of the arrests – and 80% of the felony arrests – are of black people.

At first blush you might see this as racism against whites, but when you understand how it works in practice it’s used to favor white defendants.

Criminal Cases

Sixteen of the twenty petitions involved criminal behavior. A risk protection order is completely unnecessary if the subject is prosecuted.

Description of the criminal behavior of a white man facing a risk protection petition in a recent Palm Beach County case.

If someone is arrested and charged with a crime, the judge can order that their firearms (and other weapons) be taken away while the charge is pending. If they’re convicted and they go to jail they can’t have any weapons in jail. If they’re put on probation, not having weapons is a condition of probation.

In other words, in cases where the subject of a risk petition committed a crime, risk protection orders are unnecessary.

So where’s the racism? In some cases risk protection petitions are filed instead of filing criminal charges. In cases where criminal charges are filed, the risk protection proceeding is used as a bargaining chip. If the defendant consents to a risk protection order, he gets a better deal on his criminal case.

While these petitions are still rare, risk protection proceedings are more likely to be used with white defendants and in the end they are used to protect whites from the other consequences of their crimes.

Criminal convictions can put defendants on the federal list for background checks, stopping them from buying guns legally. According to the Giffords Law Center: “Most NICS denials are due to felony or misdemeanor convictions.”

A risk protection order does not put the person on the federal background check list so it does less to stop them from getting guns in the future than a conviction.

Other Problems

Going through these petitions, it is generally obvious that we don’t want these people to have guns. But the use of risk protection petitions to get there is dubious. Here’s a great example from a Boca Raton PD petition:

We can probably all agree we don’t want this guy to have a gun. But when someone threatens to shoot any police officer who comes to his door, sending police officers to his door seems like a dangerous approach to the problem.

This individual faced a risk protection petition, but no criminal charge was filed against him even though he could have been charged for making a written threat to kill. And yes, he’s white.

Delayed Emergency

From a due process standpoint one of the most interesting things about these petitions is the use of the emergency proceeding. The risk protection statute allows for a regular petition where the supposedly dangerous person is notified in advance of the proceeding and can participate in the initial hearing before guns are take away. It also allows for an emergency petition where the police go to a judge “ex parte” – without notice to the individual or a chance to participate.

Of the twenty petitions we reviewed, every single one of them was done as an ex parte emergency. But they weren’t really emergencies. On average the petitions were filed about ten days after the incident that was the basis of the proceeding. Six of the petitions were filed two or more weeks afterward.

If it’s really an emergency that this person shouldn’t have guns, the petition should be filed right away. If it’s not filed right away, it’s obviously not an emergency and judges should refuse to grant the temporary relief.

Judges did say no to temporary relief for two of these petitions, but it doesn’t appear that delay was a reason, and it’s not listed as a factor in the statute. So far we only see one petition where the final order was denied. Three are still pending.

Baker Act

Twelve of the petitions either involve Baker Act proceedings or, on our review, Baker Act proceedings could have been initiated. The Baker Act is a Florida statute that allows for courts to order a person to get a mental health examination and put them in inpatient treatment if necessary. That person would not have access to guns during the process.

A Baker Act finding that someone has a mental illness should put that person on the NICS background check list. Florida has not been good about following through on this, but using risk protection petitions is even less effective because the result doesn’t qualify for the background check program.

In every single petition we reviewed, the matter could have been resolved – and guns taken away – either through criminal prosecution or a Baker Act proceeding. So it appears the red flag law accomplishes nothing in terms of making us safer from dangerous people.

Family and Roommates

Another flaw in the red flag law approach is its inability to deal with people who live in the same home as the dangerous person. In one case the subject lived with his father. In another the subject lived with his girlfriend. In each of these two the other resident asserted that at least some of the guns in the home were theirs and did not agree to give them up.

The statute doesn’t give police or the courts the authority to take guns away from them, and it also does not give authority to take the subject out of that home. Criminal prosecution and Baker Act proceedings can both address this situation. Red flag laws do not.

The Famous Athlete

To be fair to the athlete and his family, who have done nothing wrong, we will not name names. But this is the language from that incident:

Following what we have seen in other cases, this white son of a prominent doctor was not charged with any crime. This is despite having a 2016 felony arrest for assault with a deadly weapon after he threatened his father with a handgun.

The female victim is a family member of a famous athlete, and the subject and his father are friends of the athlete’s family.

So far we are not seeing police using Florida’s red flag law to go after outspoken politicians or activists. That may be a legitimate fear sometime in the future but it’s not what’s happening now.

Red flag laws lack the due process protections of other proceedings and are less effective than the tools we already have. And of course, they are applied in racist manner to protect white people from the consequences of their criminal behavior, while black people do not get the same benefit.

See our previous article about problems with red flag laws.

Problems With Red Flag Laws

The latest rage in gun control circles is so-called “Red Flag” laws. The idea is supposed to be that guns can be taken away from people who pose some kind of threat to the public.

There are multiple problems with these laws. The biggest concerns relate to vagueness, due process, and misleading language. President Trump’s suggestion that CNN anchor Chris Cuomo could be subject to a red flag law demonstrates these flaws.

See our new article: Red Flag Laws Are Racist

What are red flag laws? As Wikipedia puts it:

In the United States, a red flag law is a gun violence prevention law that permits police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves.

One of the most common practical terms used to describe these laws is that they authorize courts to issue “extreme risk protection orders.” That’s how gun control group Giffords describes them. It’s the word “extreme” that’s misleading.

Florida has adopted such a law. The statute avoids use of the word extreme, but it was used in the bill analysis the legislature relied upon. Other gun control groups continue to use the “extreme risk” language in describing Florida’s statute.

This is the biggest problem with the Florida law, and many other such laws. They are not about “extreme risk” at all. The Florida statute, titled Risk Protection Orders, doesn’t require that any such risk be extreme. Washington State’s law (RCW 7.94.030) does use the word extreme, but similar to Florida uses the actual standard “significant danger.”

Florida statute, 790.401, uses somewhat inconsistent language, but the general idea is that the supposedly dangerous person will have their guns taken away if they pose a “significant danger of causing personal injury to himself or herself or others by having a firearm.”

The statute authorizes a temporary order where the accused’s rights are taken away without any notice. The standard for a judge when faced with this is:

If a court finds there is reasonable cause to believe that the respondent poses a significant danger of causing personal injury to himself or herself or others in the near future by having in his or her custody or control, or by purchasing, possessing, or receiving, a firearm or ammunition, the court must issue a temporary ex parte risk protection order.

Reasonable cause is a very low standard, and significant danger is vague. The statute provides a list of factors for the judge to consider and this contributes to the vagueness and lack of standards.

Some of the factors are particularly dubious:

The first two factors:

  1. A recent act or threat of violence by the respondent against himself or herself or others, whether or not such violence or threat of violence involves a firearm.
  2. An act or threat of violence by the respondent within the past 12 months, including, but not limited to, acts or threats of violence by the respondent against himself or herself or others.

We’re already in vague territory here. What counts as violence? What counts as a threat? And why have one factor for recent and another that goes back 12 months?

If you think this is a trivial issue, consider the recent incident with Chris Cuomo. He threatened to throw a man down the stairs. That is a clear threat of violence.

Factor 3 in the Florida statute addresses mental health:

3. Evidence of the respondent being seriously mentally ill or having recurring mental health issues.

Chris Cuomo has admitted to having mental health issues and that it was a recurring problem – start around 2:09 in this CNN video – “many layers of my life for many years.”

So we already have two factors in the statute suggesting that Chris Cuomo could be subject to a red flag order.

Let’s turn to Factor 9: “The unlawful or reckless use, display, or brandishing of a firearm by the respondent.”

It’s hard to argue with the term “unlawful”, but reckless is open to interpretation. There have been at least two incidents where schools suspended students for posting gun range photos on social media, one involving high school students and another involving a college student. If they’re enough to get you suspended from school, that seems enough to count as reckless.

Then there’s Factor 12: “Corroborated evidence of the abuse of controlled substances or alcohol by the respondent.”

Why is this in the statute? I follow news of mass shootings and I don’t remember one where the shooter was noted for having an alcohol or substance abuse problem that was thought to have contributed to the shooting.

And what counts as abuse? I have a friend who drinks more than I do, and sometimes I think he drinks too much. Does that count? Marijuana is another problem. Many of us think that there’s nothing wrong with marijuana use, but others feel that any use of marijuana is abuse. Many years ago I handled a child custody case where the judge held the father’s use of marijuana against him.

Even proper prescription drug use could be considered abuse by a judge in one of these proceedings, especially in the early stage where the accused has not received any notice.

Next we have Factor 13: “Evidence of recent acquisition of firearms or ammunition by the respondent.”

This is disturbing. Maybe it makes sense for a person who doesn’t already own firearms. But what about someone who already has 5 guns and a thousand rounds of ammunition. Why would buying one more gun, or some ammo, indicate a risk?

Some readers at this point may be concerned about someone having a thousand rounds of ammunition. Gun owners buy ammunition in larger quantities for the same reason people shop at BJ’s and Costco. If you go to the range once a week and shoot 100 rounds, you’ll go through 1000 rounds in 2 1/2 months. I did an all-day training session at Florida Firearms Traning and went through close to a thousand rounds.

If that’s not bad enough, we then get to the most vague catch-all factors:

14. Any relevant information from family and household members concerning the respondent.
15. Witness testimony, taken while the witness is under oath, relating to the matter before the court.

Those are so wide open that anything can be said and could qualify to get such an order.

This brings us back to the standard for a judge to consider: “reasonable cause to believe that the respondent poses a significant danger.”

This makes it far too easy for a judge to take away a person’s rights, with no meaningful standards.

To be fair, we can be hopeful that most police agencies will not abuse this power and will apply it to the right circumstances. This is an example from Boca Raton PD that makes sense:

Of course with this one it’s not clear how sending police to the door of someone who is planning to shoot cops through the door is a wise plan. But it appears this was handled well.

In other good news we see a case from Jupiter PD in June where Judge Dina Keever-Agrama denied a temporary order. We’ve liked her for a long time.

Related due process concerns remain troubling. The accused can have his rights and guns taken away with no notice or opportunity to be heard. Then the accused can request a hearing, but “no sooner than 14 days and no later than 30 days.” You can’t get a hearing for at least two weeks and maybe as long as a month later.

At that hearing the accused has to prove he’s not a significant danger, and “by clear and convincing evidence.” That’s a much higher standard than the “reasonable cause” standard used to take rights away.

Another related due process concern is the law has regular orders where the accused gets notice in advance, along with temporary ex parte orders with no notice. Are the regular orders used at all? Has anyone kept statistics on how many of these orders were done with notice as opposed to without?

In a brief review of some cases in Palm Beach County and Broward County, every case is filed seeking the emergency temporary order. In one Broward case the “emergency” petition wasn’t filed until two weeks after the incident that prompted it, and that petition was granted even though it obviously was no longer an emergency. That seems to be a pattern in the few cases we have reviewed. If it’s an emergency, the petition should be filed right away. If it’s not filed right away, it’s not an emergency.

This might seem a minor detail, but police in one county can pursue an order against an accused in a different county. So the accused has to defend himself in a distant court. Why would this be part of the law? Why not insist that the petition come from the accused’s home county law enforcement and in his home county courts?

If al that isn’t enough, consider the use of the term “red flag”, a prominent communist symbol. President Trump’s suggestion that red flag laws could be used to disarm a political/media opponent like Chris Cuomo shows the danger.

See our new article: Red Flag Laws Are Racist

Storyful Scam: Copyright Claims on Youtube

I received a message from YouTube about a bogus copyright claim on one of my videos. The incident smacks of copyright troll behavior.

The claim identifies itself (above) as coming from “Storyful Managed.”

This is about a video I made breaking down and analyzing the details of Tiger Woods’ DUI arrest in Jupiter back in 2017.

The claim was resolved in my favor after I disputed it. As such the details of the claim are now hidden from me by YouTube. Before that it did not provide a lot of detail but indicated that the supposedly copyrighted material was around 20 minutes into the video.

The only content in this video is me talking, sometimes with my face and mostly me talking over a lot of clips from the police dashcam video. Police dashcam video is public record and is not copyrightable.

There is nothing in this video that could even remotely look like it belongs to any copyright holder other than me. The message indicates the video was identified by Content ID. This means there was some kind of computer analysis that connected my video with a video uploaded by Storyful.

Storyful has had a partnership in the past with Google and YouTube, and has a YouTube channel with over 100,000 subscribers. As a result of that, I doubt YouTube will hold Storyful accountable.

For an interesting post about a similar experience someone else had, see this article on PetaPixel.

The deeper problem with this is that many people will not dispute these bogus copyright claims. The genuine publisher may not be paying full attention, may be scared or intimidated, or may just not be comfortable completing the dispute process. As a result malicious players like Storyful end up getting revenue from the videos by making these bogus claims.

I’d like to hope that complaints like mine would get noticed and YouTube would hold Storyful accountable for making this bogus claim. But I doubt it.

Tesla and Misleading Media Myths

Those who follow Tesla in the news face an ongoing barraging of misleading information in the mainstream media about the company and its competition. One of the most prominent myths lately is that Tesla faces a demand problem. This is absurd.

This just reared its ugly head yet again with yesterday’s Washington Post article. Another in a long line of hit pieces on Tesla, this one repeated the nonsense that Tesla suffers from demand problems: “demand from Chinese and European consumers hasn’t materialized as planned.”

Meanwhile author Faiz Siddiqui trumpets the “well-reviewed” electric SUVs from Jaguar and Audi, as well as “mass market” EVs like the Chevy Bolt and Nissan Leaf. Siddiqui failed to notice the stunning lack of demand for these cars.

I was curious to see how they’re doing, and started by checking with my nearest Jaguar dealer, which is in Fort Lauderdale.

They have an inventory of 26 I-Pace vehicles. That’s in just one dealership. There’s another 15 sitting in Palm Beach and more in Miami, Naples, Fort Myers, Orlando and so on, all within 200 miles of West Boca.

By comparison, I looked on the Tesla website to check Model X inventory. There are exactly ZERO vehicles in inventory within 200 miles of my home zip code.

Tesla sold 1375 of the Model X in May. That’s more than Jaguar sold of the I-Pace so far this year (data from InsideEVs). Jaguar has so many I-Paces in inventory it suggests they can’t sell them.

I also checked the Chevy Bolt. We have a Chevy dealership only a few miles from our house. It’s not pretty.

They’re offering massive discounts on the Bolt. Why? Because no one is buying them. The Nissan Leaf is such a dud our local dealership in Coral Springs doesn’t appear to be selling them. I can’t find it on their website.

The real demand story in the electric vehicle market is that EVs from other brands do face a demand problem.

We’ve written about Tesla before and the coming transportation revolution. The EVs from most car companies are well behind Tesla on the technological front, especially when it comes to self-driving features, but also on performance, range, and more.

Siddiqui also writes:

Tesla’s competition will accelerate as automakers including Volkswagen, Porsche, BMW, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz begin to unveil their premium electric vehicles in coming months, buoyed by the known quantity of their brands, existing manufacturing expertise and huge dealership networks.

Starting with the Volkswagen brand is odd after the huge hit the brand took from their diesel scandal. Porsche does not have a “huge dealership network” with fewer than 190 dealers in the US. It’s far from clear why a dealership network is a plus in the modern world. Tesla’s network of over 1500 charging stations is far more important for those buying electric cars.

The vaunted manufacturing expertise of these companies is focused on internal combustion engines. Tesla has far more expertise with electric vehicles.

Getting back to demand, Tesla has sold 57,000 cars in the US through May, more than twice as many cars as Porsche’s 25,000 and also more than Volvo’s 40,000. Globally Tesla sold more cars than either Porsche or Jaguar in the first quarter of 2019. The Model 3 is easily outselling gas powered competitors from BMW, Mercedes and others, and the second quarter is projected to be far bigger for Tesla than the first quarter.

The biggest hurdle for Tesla is battery production as Elon Musk himself recently noted. They’re working on it and it sounds like they’re making progress. This is also a problem for other car companies trying to make electric vehicles. They have to get batteries too, and unlike Tesla they don’t make their own. Oddly the media rarely talks about how difficult and expensive it is for other companies to get batteries for their EVs.

Most likely the media will continue to attack Tesla and spread FUD – fear, uncertainty and doubt. But EV buyers have already figured them out, and investors won’t be far behind.

Disclosure: The author owns stock directly in Tesla and Honda, and effectively in most car companies through equity mutual funds. He also owns a VW sedan.